The continuing interest in the biology of stem cells is enhanced by new discoveries surrounding developmental plasticity of both embryonic and adult stem cells. Adoptive transfer of concepts and definitions from the hematopoietic system to other tissue stem cells suggests inclusion of characteristics such as ability to self-renew and differentiate to functionally reconstitute a tissue/organ of origin. How adequate and accurate are these definitions? Within the great unknown of how these cells function, modulate their gene expression patterns and respond to extrinsic signals, it is apparent that there are numerous levels of stemness. We may envision a scale of developmental flexibility. At one end of the scale are positioned the embryonic stem cells, and at the other end are positioned partially-differentiated, differentiation restricted (committed) tissue/organ stem cells. There is evidence that some stem cells in the adult are pluripotent, thus positioned close to the embryonic end of the stem scale. It is uncertain yet to what extent stem cells can move back and forth along the stem scale.
Keywords: hematopoietic, long-term reconstitution (LTR), phenotypic characterization, embryonic stem cells (ESC), CD34 expression, Skepticism, bone marrow
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