We identified a partially purified mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) population that maintains its multi-lineage potential both in vivo and in vitro. Most importantly, we demonstrated that as few as 500 purified cells can develop bone in vivo without prior cell expansion in culture. This prospective isolation process, based upon lessons learned from hematology, sets us apart from others in the mesenchymal biology field and will allow us to understand the crucial differences in stem cell properties between cell culture and in vivo environments. The overall objective of this application is to understand the biology of this stem cell population, including in vivo lineage progression, how they function in the stem cell niche and determine the functional relationships and crosstalk between HSCs and MSCs. The central hypothesis behind our proposed projects is that a true mesenchymal stem cell exists within the bone marrow and the activity of this stem cell, including interactions with HSCs, is dependent on its niche compartment. We plan to test our central hypothesis and accomplish our objectives by pursuing three specific aims.
Each aim offers the opportunity to generate new tools that will revolutionize the ability to discover and model the environmental factors that mediate cell function in complex in vivo systems such as the bone/bone marrow.
Aim 1. To identify and characterize cells within the bone marrow stroma that exhibit mesenchymal stem cell activity. We will answer the following compelling questions: 1) Do these purified cells function as stem cells in vivo? 2) What is the capacity of these purified cells to function in their native in vivo micro-environment? and 3) How do MSCs respond to physiologic stimuli? Aim 2. To identify the MSC niche and determine the extent to which the MSC pool and its niche changes under physiologic and pathologic conditions (Mapping and defining the niche). We will address the following experimental questions 1) Where do MSCs reside within the marrow? 2) Do MSC numbers change in response to physiologic and or pathologic stimuli, including a single dose of 5-FU, a single acute bleed and anabolic PTH treatment? 3) Do perturbations of the marrow alter/regulate the MSC phenotype? Aim 3. To determine the functional relationships and cross talk between HSCs and MSCs. 1) Do MSCs and HSCs co-localize to the same niche? 2) Do HSCs (isolated with SLAM family markers) regulate MSC fate?
A fundamental question in cellular and developmental biology is how a stem cell niche develops, and how these niches support and maintain stem cell activity. We have pioneered the use of an in vivo model that we will now use to functionally characterize our prospectively isolated MSCs. Our projects are designed to understand the nature of these MSCs and how their microenvironment, including interactions with hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), influences their biologic activity. The overall hypothesis driving our project is that a true mesenchymal stem cell exists within the bone marrow and the activity of this stem cell - including interactions with hematopoietic stem cells - is dependent on its niche compartment.
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