The birth of the stem cell niche concept: Schofield, 1978

In David Scadden‘s elegant review on The stem-cell niche as an entity of action I found the historically first article in which the concept of the stem cell niche was proposed: “The concept of a niche as a specialized microenvironment housing stem cells was first proposed by Schofield almost 30 years ago in reference to mammalian haematology, although experimental evidence was first provided by invertebrate models”. Now Schoefield is an active researcher since then and the paper was published in Blood Cells. Here is the abstract of the paper, notice the context (primary HSC candidate), the now familiar concepts like “immortality of stem cell population” and also the weird ones like “first generation colony-forming cells”.

“Several experimental findings that are inconsistent with the view that the spleen colony-forming cell (CFU-S) is the primary haemopoietic stem cell are reviewed. Recovery of CFU-S, both quantitatively and qualitatively, can proceed differently depending upon the cytotoxic agent or regime used to bring about the depletion. The virtual immortality of the stem cell population is at variance with evidence that the CFU-S population has an ‘age-structure’ which has been invoked by several workers to explain experimental and clinical observations. To account for these inconsistencies, a hypothesis is proposed in which the stem cell is seen in association with other cells which determine its behaviour. It becomes essentially a fixed tissue cell. Its maturation is prevented and, as a result, its continued proliferation as a stem cell is assured. Its progeny, unless they can occupy a similar stem cell ‘niche’, are first generation colony-forming cells, which proliferate and mature to acquire a high probability of differentiation, i.e., they have an age-structure. Some of the experimental situations reviewed are discussed in relation to the proposed hypothesis.”

5 thoughts on “The birth of the stem cell niche concept: Schofield, 1978

  1. It is fascinating that todays so-called ES gurus are merely regurgitating work done 30 years ago.

    I wonder how many citations this publication got? How many patents issued? Prior art, anyone?

    Reverse peristalsis is a bitch.

  2. Lizfrog: it is hard to base a patent on a simple hypothesis, like the stem cell niche, without any product or method, so do not expect that. In science, conceptual progress is often ahead of its time, and experiments can confirm it only later.
    Here are the citations according to Google Scholar.
    Recent stem cell biology is not a simple regurgitating of previous works, but the rapid evolution and application of them. Please use a more unbiased lingo next time. Thanks, Attila.

  3. Attila,

    I understand and apologize for my candor in an attempt to be humorous. Perhaps I should avoid trying to make comments after enjoying too many adult beverages.
    I attended a public meeting of the Maryland Stem Cell Commission yesterday. My point was that this kind of prior art, which was new to me, might attenuate the velocity of stem cell related IP claims coming out. It has been determined that the cells themselves cannot be patented, so this leaves only the methods for obtaining them. Establishing that a method is non-obvious, unique and unpublished can be very difficult and I think this takes a swipe at any number of claims I have seen.

    Thank you. Frog

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