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Biomed Res Int. 2013;2013:310859. doi: 10.1155/2013/310859. Epub 2012 Dec 27.

Cells with stem cell characteristics in somatic compartments of the ovary.

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  • 1Clinic of Gynecological Endocrinology and Reproductive Medicine and Department of Biomedicine, University of Basel, 4031 Basel, Switzerland.


Antral follicular growth in the ovary is characterized by rapid expansion of granulosa cells accompanied by a rising complexity of their functionality. Within two weeks the number of human granulosa cells increases from less than 500,000 to more than 50 millions cells per follicle and differentiates into groups of cells with a variety of specialized functions involved in steroidogenesis, nursing the oocyte, and forming a functional syncitium. Both the rapid proliferation and different specialized functions of the granulosa cells can only be explained through the involvement of stem cells. However, luteinizing granulosa cells were believed to be terminally differentiated cells. Only recently, stem and progenitor cells with FSH-receptor activity were identified in populations of luteinizing granulosa cells obtained during oocyte collected for assisted reproduction. In the presence of the leukaemia-inhibiting factor (LIF), it was possible to culture a subpopulation of the luteinizing granulosa cells over prolonged time periods. Furthermore, when embedded in a matrix consisting of collagen type I, these cells continued to express the FSH receptor over prolonged time periods, developed globular formations that surrogated as follicle-like structures, providing a promising tool for reproductive biology.

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