, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 281-297

Chemical biology in stem cell research

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Stem cells are offering a considerable range of prospects to the biomedical research including novel platforms for disease models and drug discovery tools to cell transplantation and regenerative therapies. However, there are several obstacles to overcome to bring these potentials into reality. First, robust methods to maintain stem cells in the pluripotent state should be established and factors that are required to direct stem cell fate into a particular lineage should be elucidated. Second, both allogeneic rejection following transplantation and limited cell availability issues must be circumvented. These challenges are being addressed, at least in part, through the identification of a group of chemicals (small molecules) that possess novel activities on stem cell biology. For example, small molecules can be used both in vitro and/or in vivo as tools to promote proliferation of stem cells (self-renewal), to direct stem cells to a lineage specific patterns (differentiation), or to reprogram somatic cells to a more undifferentiated state (de-differentiation or reprogramming). These molecules, in turn, have provided new insights into the signaling mechanisms that regulate stem cell biology, and may eventually lead to effective therapies in regenerative medicine. In this review, we will introduce recent findings with regards to small molecules and their impact on stem cell self-renewal and differentiation.