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Stem Cell Rev. 2012 Sep;8(3):658-71. doi: 10.1007/s12015-011-9340-9.

Adult craniofacial stem cells: sources and relation to the neural crest.

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Molecular Neurobiology, University of Bielefeld, Universitätsstr. 25, 33501 Bielefeld, Germany.


During the process of development, neural crest cells migrate out from their niche between the newly formed ectoderm and the neural tube. Thereafter, they give rise not only to ectodermal cell types, but also to mesodermal cell types. Cell types with neural crest ancestry consequently comprise a number of specialized varieties, such as ectodermal neurons, melanocytes and Schwann cells, as well as mesodermal osteoblasts, adipocytes and smooth muscle cells. Numerous recent studies suggest that stem cells with a neural crest origin persist into adulthood, especially within the mammalian craniofacial compartment. This review discusses the sources of adult neural crest-derived stem cells (NCSCs) derived from the cranium, as well as their differentiation potential and expression of key stem cell markers. Furthermore, the expression of marker genes associated with embryonic stem cells and the issue of multi- versus pluripotency of adult NCSCs is reviewed. Stringent tests are proposed, which, if performed, are anticipated to clarify the issue of adult NCSC potency. Finally, current pre-clinical and clinical data are discussed in light of the clinical impact of adult NCSCs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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