Stem cells can self-renew and differentiate over extended periods of time. Understanding how stem cells acquire their fates is a central question in stem cell biology. Early work in Drosophila germ line and neuroblast showed that fate choice is achieved by strict asymmetric divisions that can generate each time one stem and one differentiated cell. More recent work suggests that during homeostasis, some stem cells can divide symmetrically to generate two differentiated cells or two identical stem cells to compensate for stem cell loss that occurred by direct differentiation or apoptosis. The interplay of all these factors ensures constant tissue regeneration and the maintenance of stem cell pool size. This interplay can be modeled as a population-deterministic dynamics that, at least in some systems, may be described as stochastic behavior. Here, we overview recent progress made on the characterization of stem cell dynamics in regenerative tissues.
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