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Curr Med Res Opin. 2006 Nov;22(11):2287-300.

The key role of adult stem cells: therapeutic perspectives.

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Department of Public Health, Microbiology, Virology, University of Milan, Italy.



The origin, function and physiology of totipotent embryonic cells are configured to construct organs and create cross-talk between cells for the biological and neurophysiologic development of organisms. Adult stem cells are involved in regenerating tissues for renewal and damage repair.


Adult stem cells have been isolated from adult tissue, umbilical cord blood and other non-embryonic sources, and can transform into many tissues and cell types in response to pathophysiological stimuli. Clinical applications of adult stem cells and progenitor cells have potential in the regeneration of blood cells, skin, bone, cartilage and heart muscle, and may have potential in degenerative diseases. Multi-pluripotent adult stem cells can change their phenotype in response to trans-differentiation or fusion and their therapeutic potential could include therapies regulated by pharmacological modulation, for example mobilising endogenous stem cells and directing them within a tissue to stimulate regeneration. Adult stem cells could also provide a vehicle for gene therapy, and genetically-engineered human adult stem cells have shown success in treatment of genetic disease.


Deriving embryonic stem cells from early human embryos raises ethical, legal, religious and political questions. The potential uses of stem cells for generating human tissues are the subject of ongoing public debate. Stem cells must be used in standardised and controlled conditions in order to guarantee the best safety conditions for the patients. One critical point will be to verify the risk of tumourigenicity; this issue may be more relevant to embryonic than adult stem cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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