Pluripotency of adult stem cells derived from human and rat pancreas
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Adult stem cells are undifferentiated cells found within fully developed tissues or organs of an adult individuum. Until recently, these cells have been considered to bear less self-renewal ability and differentiation potency compared to embryonic stem cells. In recent studies an undifferentiated cell type was found in primary cultures of isolated acini from exocrine pancreas termed pancreatic stellate cells. Here we show that pancreatic stellate-like cells have the capacity of extended self-renewal and are able to differentiate spontaneously into cell types of all three germ layers expressing markers for smooth muscle cells, neurons, glial cells, epithelial cells, chondrocytes and secretory cells (insulin, amylase). Differentiation and subsequent formation of three-dimensional cellular aggregates (organoid bodies) were induced by merely culturing pancreatic stellate-like cells in hanging drops. These cells were developed into stable, long-term, in vitro cultures of both primary undifferentiated cell lines as well as organoid cultures. Thus, evidence is given that cell lineages of endodermal, mesodermal, and ectodermal origin arise spontaneously from a single adult undifferentiated cell type. Based on the present findings it is assumed that pancreatic stellate-like cells are a new class of lineage uncommitted pluripotent adult stem cells with a remarkable self-renewal ability and differentiation potency. The data emphasize the versatility of adult stem cells and may lead to a reappraisal of their use for the treatment of inherited disorders or acquired degenerative diseases.
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