The establishment of culture systems that promote haemopoietic stem cell (HSC) self-renewal and expansion ex vivo will increase the clinical potential of umbilical cord blood (CB) HSC transplantation. Studies defining key signalling pathways that regulate development and expansion of HSC in vivo have greatly facilitated development of protocols for expanding HSC in ex vivo culture. Recently a number of soluble factors with novel stem cell expansion activity have been identified as part of pathways associated with mesodermal induction, or as factors produced by supportive stroma. These have been reported to support, to varying degrees, HSC self-renewal under in vitro conditions. Here we review the activities of these new factors and consider their future potential as components in ex vivo expansion culture for CB HSC. Finally we discuss the challenges associated with applying these factors to clinically relevant culture systems.
Keywords: Cord blood, haemopoietic stem cells, ex vivo expansion, growth factors, stem cell transplantation
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