Population dynamics of normal human blood inferred from somatic mutations

H Lee-Six, NF Øbro, MS Shepherd, S Grossmann, K Dawson, M Belmonte, RJ Osborne, BJP Huntly, I Martincorena, E Anderson, L O'Neill, MR Stratton, E Laurenti, AR Green, DG Kent, PJ Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Haematopoietic stem cells drive blood production, but their population size and lifetime dynamics have not been quantified directly in humans. Here we identified 129,582 spontaneous, genome-wide somatic mutations in 140 single-cell-derived haematopoietic stem and progenitor colonies from a healthy 59-year-old man and applied population-genetics approaches to reconstruct clonal dynamics. Cell divisions from early embryogenesis were evident in the phylogenetic tree; all blood cells were derived from a common ancestor that preceded gastrulation. The size of the stem cell population grew steadily in early life, reaching a stable plateau by adolescence. We estimate the numbers of haematopoietic stem cells that are actively making white blood cells at any one time to be in the range of 50,000-200,000. We observed adult haematopoietic stem cell clones that generate multilineage outputs, including granulocytes and B lymphocytes. Harnessing naturally occurring mutations to report the clonal architecture of an organ enables the high-resolution reconstruction of somatic cell dynamics in humans.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-478
Number of pages6
Issue number7724
Early online date5 Sep 2018
Publication statusPublished - 27 Sep 2018

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