Stem-cell "plasticity": befuddled by the muddle

Curr Opin Hematol. 2003 May;10(3):208-13. doi: 10.1097/00062752-200305000-00003.


In the past 4 years, multiple reports have suggested that stem cells derived from adult tissues can differentiate outside their tissue of origin, challenging long-accepted tenets of developmental biology. This concept of stem-cell "plasticity" has helped to galvanize research on stem cells due to the myriad therapeutic possibilities. However, there are wide discrepancies in the reported frequencies of so-called transdifferentiation events, from recent reports of negative data to reports of the contribution in some tissues and systems reaching as much as 20%. The evidence for and against stem-cell plasticity is reviewed here as well as some of the possible sources of the experimental variation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Lineage
  • Humans
  • Stem Cells / cytology*