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Nat Biotechnol. 2014 Aug;32(8):795-803. doi: 10.1038/nbt.2978.

Modulating the stem cell niche for tissue regeneration.

Author information

Division of Immunology, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Royal Brisbane Hospital, Herston, Queensland, Australia.
1] Division of Hematology/Oncology, Boston Children's Hospital and Department of Pediatric Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. [2] Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine, King's College London, Guy's Hospital, Great Maze Pond, London, UK.


The field of regenerative medicine holds considerable promise for treating diseases that are currently intractable. Although many researchers are adopting the strategy of cell transplantation for tissue repair, an alternative approach to therapy is to manipulate the stem cell microenvironment, or niche, to facilitate repair by endogenous stem cells. The niche is highly dynamic, with multiple opportunities for intervention. These include administration of small molecules, biologics or biomaterials that target specific aspects of the niche, such as cell-cell and cell-extracellular matrix interactions, to stimulate expansion or differentiation of stem cells, or to cause reversion of differentiated cells to stem cells. Nevertheless, there are several challenges in targeting the niche therapeutically, not least that of achieving specificity of delivery and responses. We envisage that successful treatments in regenerative medicine will involve different combinations of factors to target stem cells and niche cells, applied at different times to effect recovery according to the dynamics of stem cell-niche interactions.

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