Hemoglobinopathies, such as beta-thalassemias and sickle cell anemia (SCA), are among the most common inherited gene defects. Novel models of human erythropoiesis that result in terminally differentiated red blood cells (RBCs) would be able to address the pathophysiological abnormalities in erythrocytes in congenital RBC disorders and to test the potential of reversing these problems by gene therapy. We have developed an in vitro model of production of human RBCs from normal CD34(+) hematopoietic progenitor cells, using recombinant growth factors to promote terminal RBC differentiation. Enucleated RBCs were then isolated to a pure population by flow cytometry in sufficient numbers for physiological studies. Morphologically, the RBCs derived in vitro ranged from early polylobulated forms, resembling normal reticulocytes to smooth biconcave discocytes. The hemoglobin pattern in the in vitro-derived RBCs mimicked the in vivo adult or postnatal pattern of beta-globin production, with negligible gamma-globin synthesis. To test the gene therapy potential using this model, CD34(+) cells were genetically marked with a retroviral vector carrying a cell-surface reporter. Gene transfer into CD34(+) cells followed by erythroid differentiation resulted in expression of the marker gene on the surface of the enucleated RBC progeny. This model of human erythropoiesis will allow studies on pathophysiology of congenital RBC disorders and test effective therapeutic strategies.