Blood cells originate from hematopoietic stem cells that are located at different sites during ontogeny. Production of human stem cells and their progeny in culture is expected to have important implications for experimental therapeutic strategies involving gene transfer and transplantation. Here we report striking differences between primitive hematopoietic cells purified from adult bone marrow, umbilical cord blood, and fetal liver in cytokine-supplemented, serum-free cultures. In such cultures both the fraction of responding cells and their ability to produce CD34+ progenitor cells decreased markedly with the age of the cell donor. These results document extensive, ontogeny-related functional differences between primitive hematopoietic cells.

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