, Volume 331, Issue 1, pp 57-66
Date: 07 Nov 2007

microRNA and stem cell function

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The identification and characterization of stem cells for various tissues has led to a greater understanding of development, tissue maintenance, and cancer pathology. Stem cells possess the ability to divide throughout their life and to produce differentiated daughter cells while maintaining a population of undifferentiated cells that remain in the stem cell niche and that retain stem cell identity. Many cancers also have small populations of cells with stem cell characteristics. These cells have been called cancer stem cells and are a likely cause of relapse in cancer patients. Understanding the biology of stem cells and cancer stem cells offers great promise in the fields of regenerative medicine and cancer treatment. microRNAs (miRNAs) are emerging as important regulators of post-transcriptional gene expression and are considered crucial for proper stem cell maintenance and function. miRNAs have also been strongly implicated in the development and pathology of cancer. In this review, we discuss the characteristics of various stem cell types, including cancer stem cells, and the importance of miRNAs therein.