The Stem Cell Niche Should be a Key Issue for Cell Therapy in Regenerative Medicine
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- Becerra, J., Santos-Ruiz, L., Andrades, J.A. et al. Stem Cell Rev and Rep (2011) 7: 248. doi:10.1007/s12015-010-9195-5
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Recent advances in stem cell research have highlighted the role played by such cells and their environment (the stem cell niche) in tissue renewal and homeostasis. The control and regulation of stem cells and their niche are remaining challenges for cell therapy and regenerative medicine on several tissues and organs. These advances are important for both, the basic knowledge of stem cell regulation, and their practical translational applications into clinical medicine. This article is primarily concerned with the mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and it reviews the current aspects of their own niche. We discuss on the need for a deeper understanding of the identity of this cell type and its microenvironment in order to improve the effectiveness of any cell therapy for regenerative medicine. Ex vivo reproduction of the conditions of the natural stem cell niche, when necessary, would provide success to tissue engineering. The first challenge of regenerative medicine is to find cells able to replace and/or repair the lost function of tissues and organs by disease or aging and the trophic and immunomodulatory effects recently found for MSCs open up for new opportunities. If MSCs are pericytes, as it has been proposed, perhaps it may explain the ubiquity of these cells and their possible role in miscellaneous repairs throughout the body opening for new chances for extensive tissue repair.