Data from many laboratory and clinical investigations indicate that CD34+ cells comprise approximately 1% of human bone marrow (BM) mononuclear cells, including the progenitor cells of all the lymphohematopoietic lineages and lymphohematopoietic stem cells (stem cells). Because stem cells are an important but rare cell type in the CD34+ cell population, investigators have subdivided the CD34+ cell population to further enrich stem cells. The CD34+/CD38-cell subset comprises less than 10% of human CD34+ adult BM cells (equivalent to < 0.1% of marrow mononuclear cells), lacks lineage (lin) antigens, contains cells with in vitro replating capacity, and is predicted to be highly enriched for stem cells. The present investigation tested whether the CD34+/CD38-subset of adult human marrow generates human hematopoiesis after transfer to preimmune fetal sheep. CD34+/ CD38- cells purified from marrow using immunomagnetic microspheres or fluorescence-activated cell sorting generated easily detectable, long- term, multilineage human hematopoiesis in the human-fetal sheep in vivo model. In contrast, transfer of CD34+/CD38+ cells to preimmune fetal sheep generated only short-term human hematopoiesis, possibly suggesting that the CD34+/CD38+ cell population contains relatively early multipotent hematopoletic progenitor cells, but not stem cells. This work extends the prior in vitro evidence that the earliest cells in fetal and adult human marrow lack CD38 expression. In summary, the CD34+/ CD38-cell population has a high capacity for long-term multilineage hematopoietic engraftment, suggesting the presence of stem cells in this minor adult human marrow cell subset.

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