, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 235-251

Endometrial regeneration and endometrial stem/progenitor cells

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The functional layer of the human endometrium is a highly regenerative tissue undergoing monthly cycles of growth, differentiation and shedding during a woman’s reproductive years. Fluctuating levels of circulating estrogen and progesterone orchestrate this dramatic remodeling of human endometrium. The thin inactive endometrium of postmenopausal women which resembles the permanent basal layer of cycling endometrium retains the capacity to respond to exogenous sex steroid hormones to regenerate into a thick functional endometrium capable of supporting pregnancy. Endometrial regeneration also follows parturition and endometrial resection. In non menstruating rodents, endometrial epithelium undergoes rounds of proliferation and apoptosis during estrus cycles. The recent identification of adult stem cells in both human and mouse endometrium suggests that epithelial progenitor cells and the mesenchymal stem/stromal cells have key roles in the cyclical regeneration of endometrial epithelium and stroma. This review will summarize the evidence for endometrial stem/progenitor cells, examine their role in mouse models of endometrial epithelial repair and estrogen-induced endometrial regeneration, and also describe the generation of endometrial-like epithelium from human embryonic stem cells. With markers now available for identifying endometrial mesenchymal stem/stromal cells, their possible role in gynecological diseases associated with abnormal endometrial proliferation and their potential application in cell-based therapies to regenerate reproductive and other tissues will be discussed.