The past decade of research on Drosophila stem cells and niches has provided key insights. Fly stem cells do not occupy a special "state" based on novel "stem cell genes" but resemble transiently arrested tissue progenitors. Moreover, individual stem cells and downstream progenitors are highly dynamic and dispensable, not tissue bulwarks. Niches, rather than fixed cell lineages, ensure tissue health by holding stem cells and repressing cell differentiation inside, but not outside. We review the five best-understood adult Drosophila stem cells and argue that the fundamental biology of stem cells and niches is conserved between Drosophila and mice.
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