Single cell analyses and machine learning define hematopoietic progenitor and HSC-like cells derived from human PSCs.

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Haematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) develop through distinct waves at various anatomical sites during embryonic development. The in vitro differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) is able to recapitulate some of these processes, however, it has proven difficult to generate functional haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). To define the dynamics and heterogeneity of HSPCs that can be generated in vitro from hPSCs, we exploited single cell RNA sequencing (scRNAseq) in combination with single cell protein expression analysis. Bioinformatics analyses and functional validation defined the transcriptomes of naïve progenitors as well as erythroid, megakaryocyte and leukocyte-committed progenitors and we identified CD44, CD326, ICAM2/CD9 and CD18 as markers of these progenitors, respectively. Using an artificial neural network (ANN), that we trained on a scRNAseq derived from human fetal liver, we were able to identify a wide range of hPSCs-derived HPSC phenotypes, including a small group classified as HSCs. This transient HSC-like population decreased as differentiation proceeded and was completely missing in the dataset that had been generated using cells selected on the basis of CD43expression. By comparing the single cell transcriptome of in vitro-generated HSC-like cells with those generated within the fetal liver we identified transcription factors and molecular pathways that can be exploited in the future to improve the in vitro production of HSCs.

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