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J Endocrinol. 2012 Apr;213(1):1-13. doi: 10.1530/JOE-11-0183. Epub 2011 Oct 25.

Identifying thyroid stem/progenitor cells: advances and limitations.

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  • 1Research Laboratories, Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù Research Institute, Children's Hospital Bambino Gesù, Piazza S. Onofrio 4, Rome, Italy.


Continuing advances in stem cell science have prompted researchers to envisage the potential application of stem cells for the management of several debilitating disorders, thus raising the expectations of transplant clinicians. In particular, in order to find a source of adult stem cells alternative to embryonic stem cells (ESCs) for the exploration of novel strategies in regenerative medicine, researchers have attempted to identify and characterise adult stem/progenitor cells resident in compact organs, since these populations appear to be responsible for physiological tissue renewal and regeneration after injury. In particular, recent studies have also reported evidence for the existence of adult stem/progenitor cell populations in both mouse and human thyroids. Here, I provide a review of published findings about ESC lines capable of generating thyroid follicular cells, thyroid somatic stem cells and cancer stem cells within the thyroid. The three subjects are analysed by also considering the criticism recently raised against their existence and potential utility. I comment specifically on the significance of resident thyroid stem cells in the developmental biology of the gland and their putative role in the pathogenesis of thyroid disorders and on the protocols employed for their identification. I finally provide my opinion on whether from basic science results obtained to date it is possible to extrapolate any convincing basic for future treatment of thyroid disorders.

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