What is the Difference Between Pluripotent and Hematopoietic Stem Cells

The main difference between pluripotent and hematopoietic stem cells is that pluripotent stem cells have the highest differentiation potential and can give rise to cells of all three germ layers. In contrast, hematopoietic stem cells have a more limited differentiation potential and primarily generate blood cells.

Pluripotent and hematopoietic stem cells are two distinct types of stem cells that play crucial roles in the field of biology and medicine.

Key Areas Covered

1. What are Pluripotent Stem Cells
     – Definition, Types, Applications
2. What are Hematopoietic Stem Cells
     – Definition, Features, Applications
3. Similarities – Pluripotent and Hematopoietic Stem Cells
     – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Pluripotent and Hematopoietic Stem Cells
     – Comparison of Key Differences    

Key Terms

Pluripotent Stem Cells, Hematopoietic Stem Cells

Difference Between Pluripotent and Hematopoietic Stem Cells - Comparison Summary

What are Pluripotent Stem Cells

Pluripotent stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can give rise to almost any cell type in the body. They possess the ability to self-renew, meaning they can divide and produce more identical pluripotent stem cells, as well as differentiate into specialized cell types. The differentiation potential of pluripotent stem cells encompasses cells from all three germ layers: endoderm, mesoderm, and ectoderm. These germ layers are the fundamental embryonic tissues that eventually develop into various organs and tissues.

Types of Pluripotent Stem Cells

There are two main types of pluripotent stem cells: embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).

Embryonic stem cells originate from the inner cell mass of a developing blastocyst, an early-stage embryo. ESCs are naturally occurring pluripotent stem cells because they exist during the earliest stages of embryonic development. These cells can proliferate indefinitely in culture while maintaining their pluripotent state. Due to ethical considerations and legal restrictions, the use of human embryonic stem cells is subject to various regulations in many countries.

Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are generated by reprogramming adult cells, typically skin fibroblasts or blood cells, to a pluripotent state. This reprogramming is achieved by introducing a set of specific transcription factors into the cells. The discovery of iPSCs revolutionized the field of regenerative medicine by offering an ethical and patient-specific approach to pluripotent stem cell research. iPSCs share many characteristics with ESCs and can differentiate into various cell types, making them valuable for disease modeling, drug screening, and potential personalized therapies.

Compare Pluripotent and Hematopoietic Stem Cells

Figure 1: Pluripotent Stem Cells

Pluripotent stem cells can be directed to differentiate into specific cell types, such as neurons, cardiomyocytes, pancreatic beta cells, and hepatocytes. These differentiated cells hold promise for replacing damaged or lost cells in various diseases and injuries.

Pluripotent stem cells enable researchers to create cellular models of human diseases, providing valuable insights into disease mechanisms, studying disease progression, and testing potential therapeutic interventions. Pluripotent stem cells offer a platform for testing the efficacy and safety of potential drugs. By differentiating pluripotent stem cells into specific cell types affected by a disease, researchers can study how drugs interact with those cells and identify potential therapeutic candidates.

What are Hematopoietic Stem Cells

Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are multipotent stem cells crucial for blood and immune system formation and maintenance. These remarkable cells can self-renew. HSCs are primarily found in bone marrow, the soft tissue inside bones. They exist in a specialized microenvironment known as the stem cell niche, which provides a nurturing environment for their growth and maintenance. The bone marrow microenvironment consists of various cell types, extracellular matrix components, and signaling molecules that regulate the behavior of HSCs.

Moreover, hematopoietic stem cells are multipotent, meaning they can give rise to multiple cell types within the blood and immune system. They can differentiate into various specialized cells, including red blood cells (erythrocytes), white blood cells (leukocytes), and platelets (thrombocytes).

As hematopoietic stem cells differentiate, they go through a process called commitment, where they become committed to a particular blood cell lineage. Once committed, their differentiation potential becomes more limited, and they give rise to different progenitor cells that further specialize into specific blood cell types.

Pluripotent vs Hematopoietic Stem Cells

Figure 2: Hematopoietic Stem Cells

Applications of Hematopoietic Stem Cells

One of the most well-known uses of these is in bone marrow transplantation for treating blood disorders like leukemia and lymphoma. This procedure replaces damaged bone marrow with healthy HSCs from a compatible donor, regenerating a new, healthy blood and immune system.

HSCs can also be found in the umbilical cord, which is rich in these valuable stem cells. Cord blood can be collected at birth and stored for future use, providing easier matching and a lower risk of complications than traditional bone marrow transplantation.

Moreover, hematopoietic stem cells offer a valuable platform for disease modeling and drug screening. Researchers can study disease mechanisms and test potential therapies by obtaining HSCs from patients with specific blood disorders or genetic conditions.

Additionally, hematopoietic stem cells play a crucial role in developing and maintaining the immune system. They give rise to immune cells, such as T cells, B cells, and natural killer cells, which are essential for fighting infections and providing immune defense. HSCs are also involved in innovative immunotherapy approaches like CAR-T cell therapy to target and eliminate cancer cells.

Similarities Between Pluripotent and Hematopoietic Stem Cells

  • Pluripotent stem cells and hematopoietic stem can self-renew.
  • Both types of stem cells belong to the category of stem cells.
  • These cells have the potential to differentiate into multiple cell types.

Difference Between Pluripotent and Hematopoietic Stem Cells


Pluripotent stem cells are stem cells with the ability to differentiate into almost any type of human cell. Meanwhile, hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are stem cells that give rise to the various types of blood cells in the body.

Source and Location

Pluripotent stem cells can be derived from different sources, such as embryonic stem cells (ESCs). The embryonic stem cells, in turn, are derived from early-stage embryos or induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) reprogrammed from adult cells. They can be found in various locations, including specialized stem cell lines, tissue banks, and laboratories. Hematopoietic stem cells are primarily found in the bone marrow, where they reside in the microenvironment. They can also be found in other sources, such as cord blood and peripheral blood.

Differentiation Potential

Moreover, pluripotent stem cells can differentiate into all three germ layers: ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm. However, hematopoietic stem cells can differentiate into various blood cell types: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.


Pluripotent stem cells have the highest differentiation potential. They can give rise to cells of all three germ layers, while hematopoietic stem cells have a more limited differentiation potential and primarily generate blood cells. Thus, this is the main difference between pluripotent and hematopoietic stem cells.


1. “Pluripotent Stem Cell – An Overview.” Science Direct.
2. “Hematopoiesis: Definition, Types & Process.” My Cleveland Clinic.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Human Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Endoderm for Modeling Development and Clinical Applications, Figure 01” By OpenStax (CC BY 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “0337 Hematopoiesis new” By NesonII – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasini A

Leave a Reply