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Bone. 2015 Jan;70:2-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bone.2014.08.011. Epub 2014 Aug 27.

Stem cells and bone: a historical perspective.

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Department of Molecular Medicine, Sapienza University of Rome, Viale Regina Elena 324, 00161 Rome, Italy. Electronic address:


Bone physiology and stem cells were tightly intertwined with one another, both conceptually and experimentally, long before the current explosion of interest in stem cells and so-called regenerative medicine. Bone is home to the two best known and best characterized systems of postnatal stem cells, and it is the only organ in which two stem cells and their dependent lineages coordinate the overall adaptive responses of two major physiological systems. All along, the nature and the evolutionary significance of the interplay of bone and hematopoiesis have remained a major scientific challenge, but also allowed for some of the most spectacular developments in cell biology-based medicine, such as hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. This question recurs in novel forms at multiple turning points over time: today, it finds in the biology of the "niche" its popular phrasing. Entirely new avenues of investigation emerge as a new view of bone in physiology and medicine is progressively established. Looking at bone and stem cells in a historical perspective provides a unique case study to highlight the general evolution of science in biomedicine since the end of World War II to the present day. A paradigm shift in science and in its relation to society and policies occurred in the second half of the XXth century, with major implications thereof for health, industry, drug development, market and society. Current interest in stem cells in bone as in other fields is intertwined with that shift. New opportunities and also new challenges arise. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled "Stem cells and bone".


Bone; Hematopoietic niche; Mesenchymal stem cells; Skeletal stem cells; Stem cells

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