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ILAR J. 2009;51(1):42-61.

From stem cells to bone: phenotype acquisition, stabilization, and tissue engineering in animal models.

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Department of Biochemistry, Institute for Basal Medical Sciences of the Medical Faculty, University of Oslo, Norway.


The regeneration of bone tissue depends on the concerted actions of a plethora of signals that recruit mesenchymal stem cells for lineage-specific differentiation, with cellular phenotypes serving various functions throughout their life span. The signals are conveyed in hormones, growth factors, and mechanical forces, all of which ensure proper modeling and remodeling. Both processes are secured by indigenous and programmed metabolism in osteoblasts/osteocytes as well as in other stem cell (SC)-derived cell types (e.g., osteoclasts, bone lining cells) involved in the remodeling of the subject tissue. The focus of this review is the concerted action of these signals as well as the regulatory and/or stabilizing control circuits exhibited by a class of small RNAs, designated microRNAs. We discuss an in vitro approach for ensuring proper phenotype acquisition as well as the choice of scaffolds and animal models for in vivo tissue repair. This approach includes selection of SC niches to optimize bone formation in vivo, transcription factors important for osteoblastogenesis, the Wnt and Notch pathways of signaling, selection of delivery systems for gene therapy, use of appropriate matrices and scaffolds, in vivo mechanostimulation, choice of lesions to be repaired, and type of animal to use. We also discuss Wnt-related and SC-based treatment of osteoporosis. Throughout, we offer considerations for the selection of model systems and parameters to assess the entire procedure from initial SC selection to final bone repair, and conclude with a table summarizing our recommendations.

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