The hematopoietic system has an outstanding regenerative capacity which depends on a relatively small population of hematopoietic stem cells (HSC). In contrast to normal human cells, blood-forming stem cells, like most of their counterparts from other adult tissues, exhibit telomerase activity to a certain level. Nevertheless, this telomerase activity does not prevent telomere shortening in HSC, suggesting a restriction of their proliferative capacity. Here, we review recent studies on telomere dynamics in HSC of humans and mice. Furthermore, we discuss the impact of telomere manipulation in HSC for possible clinical applications and speculate on functions of telomerase beyond telomere lengthening.
Keywords: hematopoietic system, eukaryotic chromosomes, telomere binding proteins, reverse transcriptase, bone marrow, cell cycle, lymphocytes, granulocytes, phenotypes
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