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The myelodysplastic syndromes (MDSs) comprise a heterogeneous group of stem cell disorders involving cytopenia and dysplastic changes in 3 hematopoietic lineages. Although it is accepted that MDS is a clonal disorder, the exact nature of the involvement of multipotent stem cells and progenitor cells has not been resolved. Most clonality studies of MDS support the proposal that the primary neoplastic event occurs, in most patients, at the level of a committed myeloid progenitor cell, capable of differentiation into multiple myeloid lineages. The extent of the involvement of T and B lymphocytes in MDS remains controversial. Much of the variation reported may result from disease heterogeneity and technical issues such as skewed methylation patterns occurring in studies analyzing X-chromosome inactivation patterns (XCIP) and possible impurities in lymphocyte preparation. A great deal of the evidence in support of T-lymphocyte involvement in MDS has been generated by XCIP studies, and some of these data need to be treated with caution, especially data from studies in which appropriate controls were omitted. In contrast, B-lymphocyte involvement in some patients with MDS is based on studies using more robust technology including combined immunophenotyping and fluorescence in situ hybridization. Clonality studies involving myeloid and lymphoid cells in MDS have yielded discrepant results with regard to the potential involvement of multipotent (lympho-myeloid) hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). However, failure to detect a clonal marker in all cells of all lineages does not preclude multipotent-HSC involvement. Some recent studies have produced compelling evidence to show that, in some patients with MDS, the multipotent HSC is the target of the primary neoplastic event. It now seems probable that MDS arises in multipotent HSCs more commonly than previously recognized. Such data not only provide important new insights into the biology of MDS but also may have therapeutic implications. The determination of whether multipotent HSCs are involved in the MDS clone may be important for the use of autologous stem cell transplantation in these patients.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Hematol

Publication Date





411 - 415


Cell Lineage, Clone Cells, Humans, Lymphocytes, Myelodysplastic Syndromes, Myeloid Cells, Neoplastic Stem Cells