Author(s): Shostak S
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Abstract Profoundly different patterns of potency and division are exhibited by mammalian embryonic and adult stem cells. Additional confusion surrounds stem-cell surrogates, cache and reserve cells having some characteristics of stem cells and not others. Mystification may have been introduced historically with the concepts of determinate and regulative development, but, hopefully, the muddle can be resolved by tracing the evolution of stem cells in Metazoa. Blastomeres in marine sponges, cnidarians, lophotrochozoans, small ecdysozoans (e.g., Caenorhabditis elegans), and some deuterostomes (e.g., echinoderms and ascidians) exhibit determinative development. Their larval and adult cells have narrow potencies, sometimes coupled to virtually unlimited proliferation, and function in the growth, maintenance and regulation of body size. The embryos of larger arthropods and deuterostomes with well-provisioned eggs or viviparity, on the other hand, exhibit regulative development, while their larval "set-aside" or adult stem cells function in the growth, maintenance, and regulation of organ size coupled to constrained proliferation and cell turnover. Mammalian embryonic stem cells would seem adapted to rapid proliferation, functioning in part to enclose yolk or to acquire access to maternal resources. The cellular products of embryonic stem cells routinely come under global influences and give rise to the cells of germ layers and organ rudiments. Mammalian adult stem cells resemble the blastomeres of planktonic and benthic organisms with small eggs and may have evolved in mature organisms as an adaptation to the growth and maintenance of tissues via proliferation and the regulation of organ size via cell loss (e.g., terminal differentiation). Cancer stem cells, instrumental in metastasis, would seem to ignore mechanisms normally functioning in the removal of excess cells. Strategies for regenerative therapies in adult mammals, therefore, might be based on stimulating growth of adult stem cells or their surrogates in specific tissues rather than on introducing embryonic stem cells into adults. Likewise, strategies for the containment of cancer might be based on promoting normal pathways of cell loss, the basal mode for handling excess cells.
This article was published in Breast Dis
and referenced in Biological Systems: Open Access