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, scientists 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.
It is hypothesized 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.
In pathological situations VSELs are involved in development of some malignancies (e.g., teratomas, germinal tumors).