Bone marrow (BM) was, for many years, primarily envisioned as the “home organ” of hematopoietic stem cells (HSC). Augmenting evidence demonstrates, however, that BM, in addition to HSC, also contains a heterogeneous population of non-HSC. Recently, our group identified in BM and other adult tissues a population of very small embryonic-like stem cells (VSELs), which express several markers characteristic for pluripotent stem cells that are characteristic for epiblast/germ line-derived stem cells. Thus, we hypothesize that VSELs are a population of epiblast-derived cells that are deposited during early gastrulation in developing tissues/organs and play an important role in turnover of tissue-specific/committed stem cells. In this context, VSELs deposited in BM can give rise to long-term repopulating HSC. VSELs could be also mobilized into peripheral blood (PB), and the number of these cells circulating in PB increases during stress and tissue/organ injuries. Finally, we envision that in pathological situations VSELs are involved in development of some malignancies (e.g., teratomas, germinal tumors).

Ratajczak, M. Z., Zuba-Surma, E. K., Wysoczynski, M., Ratajczak, J., & Kucia, M. (2008). Very small embryonic-like stem cells: characterization, developmental origin, and biological significance. Experimental hematology36(6), 742-751.