Three-color flow cytometry was used to identify CD34+ cord blood (CB) hematopoietic progenitors of preterm (n = 13) and term (n = 18) neonates. The frequency of CD34+ CB cells gated on the lymphocyte fraction in term neonates is about half the frequency of preterm neonates (mean 1.84 ± 0.8 vs. 3.49 ± 1.8, p < 0.005). The difference of absolute CD34+cells between the 2 groups did not reach statistical significance (premature 169 ± 161 vs. mature 108 ± 62.6 × 106 cells/1). The proportion of myeloid lineage-committed CD34+ cells coexpressing the CD 33 antigen in preterm neonates does not significantly differ from that found in term neonates. However, in preterm neonates a higher fraction of erythroid lineage-committed CD34+ cells coexpresses the CD71 antigen as compared with term neonates (mean 28.7 ± 14.1 vs. 11.4 ± 5.7, p < 0.001). The positive correlation between gestational age and the ratio of myeloid/erythroid lineage-specific progenitor cells (r = 0.61, n = 31, p < 0.0005) suggests gestational changes in lineage commitment of CD34+ cells.

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