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Advances in Hematology
Volume 2013, Article ID 953982, 8 pages
Review Article

The Bone Marrow Microenvironment as Niche Retreats for Hematopoietic and Leukemic Stem Cells

1Department of Immunology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Boulevard, Unit 0902, Houston, TX 77030, USA
2Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, 6767 Bertner Avenue, 3rd Floor, Houston, TX 77030, USA
3Department of Leukemia, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Boulevard, Unit 428, Houston, TX 77030, USA

Received 6 June 2012; Accepted 28 December 2012

Academic Editor: Karl-Anton Kreuzer

Copyright © 2013 Felix Nwajei and Marina Konopleva. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Leukemia poses a serious challenge to current therapeutic strategies. This has been attributed to leukemia stem cells (LSCs), which occupy endosteal and sinusoidal niches in the bone marrow similar to those of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). The signals from these niches provide a viable setting for the maintenance, survival, and fate specifications of these stem cells. Advancements in genetic engineering and microscopy have enabled us to critically deconstruct and analyze the anatomic and functional characteristics of these niches to reveal a wealth of new knowledge in HSC biology, which is quite ahead of LSC biology. In this paper, we examine the present understanding of the regulatory mechanisms governing HSC niches, with the goals of providing a framework for understanding the mechanisms of LSC regulation and suggesting future strategies for their elimination.