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Bioessays. 2006 Mar;28(3):301-8.

(Re)defining stem cells.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA.


Stem-cell nomenclature is in a muddle! So-called stem cells may be self-renewing or emergent, oligopotent (uni- and multipotent) or pluri- and totipotent, cells with perpetual embryonic features or cells that have changed irreversibly. Ambiguity probably seeped into stem cells from common usage, flukes in biology's history beginning with Weismann's divide between germ and soma and Haeckel's biogenic law and ending with contemporary issues over the therapeutic efficacy of adult versus embryonic cells. Confusion centers on tissue dynamics, whether stem cells are properly members of emerging or steady-state populations. Clarity might yet be achieved by codifying differences between cells in emergent populations, including embryonic stem and embryonic germ (ES and EG) cells in tissue culture as opposed to self-renewing (SR) cells in steady-state populations.

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