The defining hallmark of stem cells is their ability to self-renew and maintain multipotency. This capacity depends on the balance of complex signals in their microenvironment. Low oxygen tensions (hypoxia) maintain undifferentiated states of embryonic, hematopoietic, mesenchymal, and neural stem cell phenotypes and also influence proliferation and cell-fate commitment. Recent evidence has identified a broader spectrum of stem cells influenced by hypoxia that includes cancer stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells. These findings have important implications on our understanding of development, disease, and tissue-engineering practices and furthermore elucidate an added dimension of stem cell control within the niche.
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