A signature characteristic of stem cells is their ability to self-renew, affording a theoretically limitless ability to produce daughter cells and their descendents. This near-timeless dimension of stem cell function is not free of the constraints of place. The idea that highly specialized 'microenvironmental' cues participate in the regulation of stem cells has evidence in classic embryology and more recently in adult stem cells through the use of model organisms. There is now ample evidence that an anatomically defined, specifically constituted place represents the niche for hematopoietic and other tissue-specific stem cells. This review provides a conceptual framework and detailed account of the hematopoietic stem cell niche as defined at present. The components are assembling into a more complex view of the niche and may now be amenable to examination as a system and possibly to alteration to affect outcomes in immune regeneration.
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We thank C. Shambaugh for administrative assistance. Supported in part by the National Institutes of Health (HL081030 and HL44851), the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
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