Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) balance self-renewal and differentiation in order to sustain lifelong blood production and simultaneously maintain the HSC pool. However, there is clear evidence that HSCs are subject to quantitative and qualitative exhaustion. In this review, we briefly discuss several known aspects of the stem cell aging process, including DNA damage, telomere shortening, and oxidative stress. Besides these known players, there is increasing evidence that higher order chromatin structure, largely defined by the histone code and affecting transcriptional activity, is important. A model is suggested which describes how epigenetic regulation of gene transcription by modulation of the chromatin structure in stem cells can account for regulation of the aging program.
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