On Very Small Embryonic-Like Stem Cells

One group of researchers believe that every tissue in the body is supported by a left-over population of fully pluripotent stem cells that might be easily accessible for use in therapies: "From the point of view of regenerative potential, the most important cells are pluripotent stem cells (PSCs). Such cells must fulfill certain in vitro as well as in vivo criteria that have been established by work with PSCs isolated from embryos, which are known as embryonic stem cells (ESCs). According to these criteria, pluripotent stem cells should: (i) give rise to cells from all three germ layers, (ii) complete blastocyst development, and (iii) form teratomas after inoculation into experimental animals. Unfortunately, in contrast to immortalized embryonic ESC lines or induced PSCs (iPSCs), these last two criteria have thus far not been obtained in a reproducible manner for any potential PSC candidates isolated from adult tissues. There are two possible explanations for this failure. The first is that PSCs isolated from adult tissues are not fully pluripotent; the second is that there are some physiological mechanisms involved in keeping these cells quiescent in adult tissues that preclude their 'unleashed proliferation', thereby avoiding the risk of teratoma formation. In this review we present an evidence that adult tissues contain remnants from development; a population of PSCs that is deposited in various organs as a backup for primitive stem cells, plays a role in rejuvenation of the pool of more differentiated tissue-committed stem cells (TCSCs), and is involved in organ regeneration. These cells share several markers with epiblast/germ line cells and have been named very small embryonic-like stem cells (VSELs). We suggest that, on one hand, VSELs maintain mammalian life span but, on the other hand, they may give rise to several malignancies if they mutate. We provide an evidence that the quiescent state of these cells in adult tissues, which prevents teratoma formation, is the result of epigenetic changes in some of the imprinted genes."

Link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21339038

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