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Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2013 Feb 1;5(2). pii: a008326. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a008326.

Signals and switches in Mammalian neural crest cell differentiation.

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Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Kansas City, MO 64110, USA.


Neural crest cells (NCCs) comprise a multipotent, migratory cell population that generates a diverse array of cell and tissue types during vertebrate development. These include cartilage and bone, tendons, and connective tissue, as well as neurons, glia, melanocytes, and endocrine and adipose cells; this remarkable lineage potential persists into adult life. Taken together with a limited capacity for self-renewal, neural crest cells bear the hallmarks of stem and progenitor cells and are considered to be synonymous with vertebrate evolution. The neural crest has provided a system for exploring the mechanisms that govern developmental processes such as morphogenetic induction, cell migration, and fate determination. Today, much of the focus on neural crest cells revolves around their stem cell-like characteristics and potential for use in regenerative medicine. A thorough understanding of the signals and switches that govern mammalian neural crest patterning is central to potential therapeutic application of these cells and better appreciation of the role that neural crest cells play in vertebrate evolution, development, and disease.

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