Bone marrow fibrosis: pathophysiology and clinical significance of increased bone marrow stromal fibres


  • All of the authors contributed equally to the design of this review as well as to its final writing and factual content.

David J. Kuter, MD, DPhil, Hematology Division, Massachusetts General Hospital, Yawkey 7940, 55 Fruit Street, Boston, MA 02114, USA. E-mail:


In bone marrow biopsies, stromal structural fibres are detected by reticulin and trichrome stains, routine stains performed on bone marrow biopsy specimens in diagnostic laboratories. Increased reticulin staining (reticulin fibrosis) is associated with many benign and malignant conditions while increased trichrome staining (collagen fibrosis) is particularly prominent in late stages of severe myeloproliferative diseases or following tumour metastasis to the bone marrow. Recent evidence has shown that the amount of bone marrow reticulin staining often exhibits no correlation to disease severity, while the presence of type 1 collagen, as detected by trichrome staining, is often associated with more severe disease and a poorer prognosis. It was originally thought that increases in bone marrow stromal fibres themselves contributed to the haematopoietic abnormalities seen in certain diseases, but recent studies suggest that these increases are a result of underlying cellular abnormalities rather than a cause. A growing body of evidence suggests that increased deposition of bone marrow stromal fibres is mediated by transforming growth factor-β and other factors elaborated by megakaryocytes, but it is likely that other cells, cytokines and growth factors are also involved. This suggests new avenues for investigation into the pathogenesis of various disorders associated with increased bone marrow stromal fibres.