• CD34;
  • hematopoietic stem cells;
  • enumeration;
  • flow cytometry;
  • standardization


The need for a rapid and reliable marker for the engraftment potential of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell (HPC) transplants has led to the development of flow cytometric assays to quantitate such cells on the basis of their expression of CD34. The variability associated with enumeration of low-frequency cells (i.e., as low as 0.1% or 5 cells/μl) is exceedingly large, but recent developments have improved the accuracy and precision of the assay. Here, we review and compare the major techniques. Based on the current state of the art, we recommend 1) bright fluorochrome conjugates of class II or III monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) that detect all glycoforms of CD34, 2) use of a vital nucleic acid dye to exclude platelets, unlysed red cells, and debris or use of 7-amino actinomycin D to exclude dead cells during data acquisition, 3) counterstaining with CD45 mAb to be included in the definition of HPC, 4) during list mode data analysis, Boolean gating to resolve the CD34+ HPCs from irrelevant cell populations on the basis of the low levels of CD45 expression and low sideward light-scatter signals of HPCs, 5) inclusion of CD34dim and CD34bright populations in the CD34+ cell count, 6) omission of the negative control staining, and 7) for apheresis products, enumeration of at least 100 CD34+ cells to ensure a 10% precision. Unresolved technical questions are 1) the replacement of conventional dual-platform by single-platform assay formats, i.e., derivation of absolute CD34+ cell counts from a single flow cytometric assessment instead of from combined flow cytometer (percent CD34+) and hematology analyzer (absolute leukocyte count) data, 2) the cross-calibration of the available single-platform assays, and 3) the optimal method for sample preparation. An important clinical question to be addressed is the definition of the precise phenotypes and required numbers of HPCs responsible for short- and long-term recovery to optimize HPC transplant strategies. Cytometry (Comm. Clin. Cytometry) 34: 128–142, 1998. © 1998 Wiley-Liss, Inc.