Hematopoietic Stem Cells
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The discovery of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) provided a pioneering step in stem cell research. HSCs are a type of multipotent adult stem cell, characterized by their ability to self-renew and differentiate into erythrocyte (red blood cell) and leukocyte (white blood cell) cell lineages. In terms of function, these cells are responsible for the continual renewal of the erythrocytes, leukocytes, and platelets in the body through a process called hematopoiesis. They also play an important role in the formation of vital organs such as the liver and spleen during fetal development. The early biological knowledge obtained from the studies of HSCs established the base of knowledge for understanding other stem cell systems. In addition, these cells have a vital role in furthering stem cell research for clinical applications. Regenerative medicine is a field of medicine that has applied HSCs to the treatment of blood-borne diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma and of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.