The differentiation and transdifferentiation of epithelial cells in vitro – is it a new strategy in regenerative biomedicine?

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In modern medical research, stem cells are one of the main focuses, believed to be able to provide the solution to many currently unsolvable medical cases. However, their extraordinary potential for differentiation creates much obstacles in their potential application in clinical environment, without understanding the whole array of molecular mechanisms that drive the processes associated with their development and maturation. Because of that, there is a large need for studies that concern the most basic levels of those processes. Progenitor stem cells are a favorable target, as they are relatively lineage committed, making the amount of signaling required to reach the final form much lower. Their presence in the adult organism is also an advantage in their potential use, as they can be extracted without the need for storage from the moment of pre-natal development or birth. Epithelial tissues, because of their usual location or function, exhibit extraordinary level of plasticity and proliferative potential. That fact makes them one of the top candidates for use in applications such as tissue engineering, cell based therapies, regenerative and reconstructive medicine. The potential clinical application, however, need to be based on well developed methods, in order to provide an effective treatment without causing major side effects. To achieve that goal, a large amount of research, aiming to analyze the molecular basics of proliferation and differentiation of epithelial stem cells, and stem cells in general, needs to be conducted.

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