Adult stem cells are undifferentiated cells, found throughout the body after development, that multiply by cell division to replenish dying cells and regenerate damaged tissues. Also known as somatic stem cells (from Greek , meaning of the body), they can be found in juvenile as well as adult animals and human bodies.
Scientific interest in adult stem cells is centered on their ability to divide or self-renew indefinitely, and generate all the cell types of the organ from which they originate, potentially regenerating the entire organ from a few cells. Unlike embryonic stem cells, the use of human adult stem cells in research and therapy is not considered to be controversial, as they are derived from adult tissue samples rather than human 5 day old embryos generated by IVF (in vitro fertility) clinics designated for scientific research. They have mainly been studied in humans and model organisms such as mice and rats.
A stem cell possesses two properties:
To ensure the safety of others, stem cells undergo two types of cell division (see Stem cell division and differentiation diagram). Symmetric division gives us a rise to two identical daughter cells, both endowed with stem cell properties, whereas asymmetric such division produces only one of those stem cells and a progenitor cell with limited self-renewal potential. Progenitors can go through several rounds of cell division before finally differentiating into a mature cell. It is believed that the molecular distinction between symmetric and asymmetric divisions lies in differential segregation of cell membrane proteins (such as receptors) between the daughter cells.
Adult stem cells express transporters of the ATP-binding cassette family that actively pump a diversity of organic molecules out of the cell. Many pharmaceuticals are exported by these transporters conferring multidrug resistance onto the cell. This complicates the design of drugs, for instance neural stem cell targeted therapies for the treatment of clinical depression.
Adult stem cell research has been focused on uncovering the general molecular mechanisms that control their self-renewal and differentiation.
Discoveries in recent years have suggested that adult stem cells might have the ability to differentiate into cell types from different germ layers. For instance, neural stem cells from the brain, which are derived from ectoderm, can differentiate into ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm. Stem cells from the bone marrow, which is derived from mesoderm, can differentiate into liver, lung, GI tract and skin, which are derived from endoderm and mesoderm. This phenomenon is referred to as stem cell transdifferentiation or plasticity. It can be induced by modifying the growth medium when stem cells are cultured in vitro or transplanting them to an organ of the body different from the one they were originally isolated from. There is yet no consensus among biologists on the prevalence and physiological and therapeutic relevance of stem cell plasticity. More recent findings suggest that pluripotent stem cells may reside in blood and adult tissues in a dormant state. These cells are referred to as "Blastomere Like Stem Cells" (Am Surg. 2007 Nov;73:1106-10) and "very small embryonic like" - "VSEL" stem cells, and display pluripotency in vitro. As BLSC's and VSEL cells are present in virtually all adult tissues, including lung, brain, kidneys, muscles, and pancreas Co-purification of BLSC's and VSEL cells with other populations of adult stem cells may explain the apparent pluripotency of adult stem cell populations. However, recent studies have shown that both human and murine VSEL cells lack stem cell characteristics and are not pluripotent.
Stem cell function becomes impaired with age, and this contributes to progressive deterioration of tissue maintenance and repair. A likely important cause of increasing stem cell dysfunction is age-dependent accumulation of DNA damage in both stem cells and the cells that comprise the stem cell environment. (See also DNA damage theory of aging.)
Hematopoietic stem cells are found in the bone marrow and give rise to all the blood cell types.
Mammary stem cells provide the source of cells for growth of the mammary gland during puberty and gestation and play an important role in carcinogenesis of the breast. Mammary stem cells have been isolated from human and mouse tissue as well as from cell lines derived from the mammary gland. Single such cells can give rise to both the luminal and myoepithelial cell types of the gland, and have been shown to have the ability to regenerate the entire organ in mice.
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Adult stem cell - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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