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Dev Cell. 2005 Aug;9(2):173-83.

Toward an understanding of the physiological function of Mammalian stem cells.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Department of Internal Medicine , 1500 East Medical Center Drive, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.


Stem cell biology has the potential to yield new therapies, new insights into disease, and a clearer understanding of tissue formation and maintenance. However, much of what we know about many stem cells is based upon experiments performed in culture. Stem cells sometimes exhibit critical differences in their properties or regulation between the culture and in vivo environments. Though cell lines with stem cell properties can be derived from the long-term culture of diverse tissues, it is not clear whether cells with similar properties exist in vivo. If the goal is to use differentiated cells for therapy or drug screening, it may not matter whether these stem cells exist in vivo. However, to understand tissue development/maintenance or the role of stem cells in disease, it is important to characterize progenitor function in vivo to evaluate physiological significance.

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