There have been significant breakthroughs over the past decade in the development and use of pluripotent stem cells as a potential source of cells for applications in regenerative medicine. It is likely that this methodology will begin to play an important role in human clinical medicine in the years to come. This review describes the plasticity of one type of pluripotent cell, spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs), and their potential therapeutic applications in regenerative medicine and male infertility. Normally, SSCs give rise to sperm when in the testis. However, both human and murine SSCs can give rise to cells with embryonic stem (ES) cell-like characteristics that can be directed to differentiate into tissues of all three embryonic germ layers when placed in an appropriate inductive microenvironment, which is in contrast to other postnatal stem cells. Previous studies have reported that SSCs expressed an intermediate pluripotent phenotype before differentiating into a specific cell type and that extended culture was necessary for this to occur. However, recent studies from our group using a tissue recombination model demonstrated that SSCs differentiated rapidly into another tissue, in this case, prostatic epithelium, without expression of pluripotent ES cell markers before differentiation. These results suggest that SSCs are capable of directly differentiating into other cell types without going through an intermediate ES cell-like stage. Because SSCs do not require reprogramming to achieve a pluripotent state, they are an attractive source of pluripotent cells for use in regenerative medicine.
- regenerative medicine
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