Scielo RSS <![CDATA[Biological Research]]> vol. 45 num. 3 lang. en <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> <![CDATA[A special issue devoted to STEM CELLS]]> <![CDATA[Stem cells: sources and therapies]]> The historical, lexical and conceptual issues embedded in stem cell biology are reviewed from technical, ethical, philosophical, judicial, clinical, economic and biopolitical perspectives. The mechanisms assigning the simultaneous capacity to self-renew and to differentiate to stem cells (immortal template DNA and asymmetric division) are evaluated in the light of the niche hypothesis for the stemness state. The induction of cell pluripotency and the different stem cells sources are presented (embryonic, adult and cord blood). We highlight the embryonic and adult stem cell properties and possible therapies while we emphasize the particular scientific and social values of cord blood donation to set up cord blood banks. The current scientific and legal frameworks of cord blood banks are reviewed at an international level as well as allogenic, dedicated and autologous donations. The expectations and the challenges in relation to present-day targeted diseases like diabetes mellitus type I, Parkinson's disease and myocardial infarction are evaluated in the light of the cellular therapies for regenerative medicine. <![CDATA[<b>Stem cells in embryonic skin development</b>]]> The skin is a complex stratified organ which acts not only as a permeability barrier and defense against external agents, but also has essential thermoregulatory, sensory and metabolic functions. Due to its high versatility and activity, the skin undergoes continuous self-renewal to repair damaged tissue and replace old cells. Consequently, the skin is a reservoir for adult stem cells of different embryonic origins. Skin stem cell populations reside in the adult hair follicle, sebaceous gland, dermis and epidermis. However, the origin of most of the stem cell populations found in the adult epidermis is still unknown. Far more unknown is the embryonic origin of other stem cells that populate the other layers of this tissue. In this review we attempt to clarify the emergence, structure, markers and embryonic development of diverse populations of stem cells from the epidermis, dermis and related appendages such as the sebaceous gland and hair follicle. <![CDATA[Sonic Hedgehog in cancer stem cells: a novel link with autophagy]]> The Sonic Hegdehog/GLI (SHH/GLI) pathway has been extensively studied for its role in developmental and cancer biology. During early embryonic development the SHH pathway is involved mainly in pattern formation, while in latter stages its function in stem cell and progenitor proliferation becomes increasingly relevant. During postnatal development and in adult tissues, SHH/GLI promotes cell homeostasis by actively regulating gene transcription, recapitulating the function observed during normal tissue growth. In this review, we will briefly discuss the fundamental importance of SHH/GLI in tumor growth and cancer evolution and we will then provide insights into a possible novel mechanism of SHH action in cancer through autophagy modulation in cancer stem cells. Autophagy is a homeostatic mechanism that when disrupted can promote and accelerate tumor progression in both cancer cells and the stroma that harbors tumorigenesis. Understanding possible new targets for SHH signaling and its contribution to cancer through modulation of autophagy might provide better strategies in order to design combined treatments and perform clinical trials. <![CDATA[A cell junction pathology of neural stem cells leads to abnormal neurogenesis and hydrocephalus]]> Most cells of the developing mammalian brain derive from the ventricular (VZ) and the subventricular (SVZ) zones. The VZ is formed by the multipotent radial glia/neural stem cells (NSCs) while the SVZ harbors the rapidly proliferative neural precursor cells (NPCs). Evidence from human and animal models indicates that the common history of hydrocephalus and brain maldevelopment starts early in embryonic life with disruption of the VZ and SVZ. We propose that a "cell junction pathology" involving adherent and gap junctions is a final common outcome of a wide range of gene mutations resulting in proteins abnormally expressed by the VZ cells undergoing disruption. Disruption of the VZ during fetal development implies the loss of NSCs whereas VZ disruption during the perinatal period implies the loss of ependyma. The process of disruption occurs in specific regions of the ventricular system and at specific stages of brain development. This explains why only certain brain structures have an abnormal development, which in turn results in a specific neurological impairment of the newborn. Disruption of the VZ of the Sylvian aqueduct (SA) leads to aqueductal stenosis and hydrocephalus, while disruption of the VZ of telencephalon impairs neurogenesis. We are currently investigating whether grafting of NSCs/neurospheres from normal rats into the CSF of hydrocephalic mutants helps to diminish/repair the outcomes of VZ disruption. <![CDATA[Typical and atypical stem cells in the brain, vitamin C effect and neuropathology]]> Stem cells are considered a valuable cellular resource for tissue replacement therapies in most brain disorders. Stem cells have the ability to self-replicate and differentiate into numerous cell types, including neurons, oligodendrocytes and astrocytes. As a result, stem cells have been considered the "holy grail" of modern medical neuroscience. Despite their tremendous therapeutic potential, little is known about the mechanisms that regulate their differentiation. In this review, we analyze stem cells in embryonic and adult brains, and illustrate the differentiation pathways that give origin to most brain cells. We also evaluate the emergent role of the well known anti-oxidant, vitamin C, in stem cell differentiation. We believe that a complete understanding of all molecular players, including vitamin C, in stem cell differentiation will positively impact on the use of stem cell transplantation for neurodegenerative diseases. <![CDATA[<b>Adult mesenchymal stem cell therapy for myelin repair in Multiple Sclerosis</b>]]> Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a demyelinating immune-mediated disease of the central nervous system (CNS). It is the most frequent neurological disease in young adults and affects over 2 million people worldwide. Current treatments reduce the relapse rate and the formation of inflammatory lesions in the CNS, but with only temporary and limited success. Despite the presence of endogenous oligodendroglial progenitors (OPCs) and of spontaneous remyelination, at least in early MS its levels and its qualities are apparently insufficient for a sustained endogenous functional repair. Therefore, novel MS therapies should consider not only immunemodulatory but also myelin repair activities. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) represent an attractive alternative to develop a cell-based therapy for MS. MSCs display stromal features and exert bystander immunemodulatory and neuroprotective activities. Importantly, MSCs induce oligodendrocyte fate decision and differentiation/maturation of adult neural progenitors, suggesting the existence of MSC-derived remyelination activity. Moreover, transplanted MSCs promote functional recovery and myelin repair in different MS animal models. Here, we summarize the current knowledge on endogenous mechanisms for remyelination and proposed autologous MSC therapy as a promising strategy for MS treatment. <![CDATA[Mesenchymal Stem Cell treatment for autoimmune diseases: a critical review]]> Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are now known to display not only stem cell multipotency, but also robust antiinflammatory and regenerative properties. After widespread in-vitro and in-vivo preclinical testing, autologous and allogeneic MSCs have been applied in a range of immune mediated conditions, including graft versus host disease, Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis, refractory systemic lupus erythematosus and systemic sclerosis. Current data suggests that MSCs may not only replace diseased tissues, but also exert several trophic, regenerative and antiinflammatory effects. While the clinical outcome in case reports and phase I-II trials seems occasionally striking, these limited results point to the need to perform controlled multicenter trials. Future advances from stem cell science can be expected to pinpoint significant MSC subpopulations and/or stem cell markers for improved regenerative or immunoregulatory properties. <![CDATA[In Osteoporosis, differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) improves bone marrow adipogenesis]]> The formation, maintenance, and repair of bone tissue involve close interlinks between two stem cell types housed in the bone marrow: the hematologic stem cell originating osteoclasts and mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) generating osteoblasts. In this review, we consider malfunctioning of MSCs as essential for osteoporosis. In osteoporosis, increased bone fragility and susceptibility to fractures result from increased osteoclastogenesis and insufficient osteoblastogenesis. MSCs are the common precursors for both osteoblasts and adipocytes, among other cell types. MSCs' commitment towards either the osteoblast or adipocyte lineages depends on suitable regulatory factors activating lineage-specific transcriptional regulators. In osteoporosis, the reciprocal balance between the two differentiation pathways is altered, facilitating adipose accretion in bone marrow at the expense of osteoblast formation; suggesting that under this condition MSCs activity and their microenvironment may be disturbed. We summarize research on the properties of MSCs isolated from the bone marrow of control and osteoporotic post-menopausal women. Our observations indicate that intrinsic properties of MSCs are disturbed in osteoporosis. Moreover, we found that the regulatory conditions in the bone marrow fluid of control and osteoporotic patients are significantly different. These conclusions should be relevant for the use of MSCs in therapeutic applications. <![CDATA[MSC transplantation: a promising therapeutic strategy to manage the onset and progression of diabetic nephropathy]]> Currently, one of the main threats to public health is diabetes mellitus. Its most detrimental complication is diabetic nephropathy (DN), a clinical syndrome associated with kidney damage and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Irrespective of the type of diabetes, DN follows a well-known temporal course. The earliest detectable signs are microalbuminuria and histopathological changes including extracellular matrix deposition, glomerular basement membrane thickening, glomerular and mesangial expansion. Later on macroalbuminuria appears, followed by a progressive decline in glomerular filtration rate and the loss of glomerular podocytes, tubulointerstitial fibrosis, glomerulosclerosis and arteriolar hyalinosis. Tight glycemic and hypertension controls remain the key factors for preventing or arresting the progression of DN. Nevertheless, despite considerable educational effort to control the disease, a significant number of patients not only develop DN, but also progress to chronic kidney disease. Therefore, the availability of a strategy aimed to prevent, delay or revert DN would be highly desirable. In this article, we review the pathophysiological features of DN and the therapeutic mechanisms of multipotent mesenchymal stromal cells, also referred to as mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). The perfect match between them, together with encouraging pre-clinical data available, allow us to support the notion that MSC transplantation is a promising therapeutic strategy to manage DN onset and progression, not only because of the safety of this procedure, but mainly because of the renoprotective potential of MSCs. <![CDATA[Molecular signature of cancer stem cells isolated from prostate carcinoma and expression of stem markers in different Gleason grades and metastasis]]> Prostate cancer (PCa) is the most frequently diagnosed malignancy in men worldwide. Chemotherapy response is very poor and resistance to hormone-based treatments is frequent in advances stages. Recently, tumor-initiating cells or cancer stem cells (CSCs) have been identified in several cancers, including PCa. These cells are thought to be responsible for therapy resistance, relapse and metastasis. In the present work, enriched populations of CSCs were obtained using a mixed procedure that included differential clone-forming ability, sphere growing induction (prostatospheres) and magnetic-associated cell sorting (MACS). Also, stem marker expression was determined in PCa biopsies of different histological grades and metastasis samples. The signature for stem markers of the isolated CSCs was CD133+/CD44+/ABCG2+/ CD24-. Expression of stem markers (CD133, CD44, and ABCG2) was higher in medium Gleason biopsies than in lower and higher grades, and lymph-node and bone metastasis samples. These results suggest that the CSCs in PCa reach an important number in medium Gleason grades, when the tumor is still confined into the gland. At this stage, the surgical treatment is usually with curative intention. However, an important percentage of patients relapse after treatment. Number and signature of CSCs may be a prognosis factor for PCa recurrence. <![CDATA[Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation: clinical use and perspectives]]> Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation is the accepted therapy of choice for a variety of malignant and non-malignant diseases in children and adults. Initially developed as rescue therapy for a patient with cancer after high doses of chemotherapy and radiation as well as the correction of severe deficiencies in the hematopoietic system, it has evolved into an adoptive immune therapy for malignancies and autoimmune disorders. The procedure has helped to obtain key information about the bone marrow environment, the biology of hematopoietic stem cells and histocompatibility. The development of this new discipline has allowed numerous groups working around the world to cure patients of diseases previously considered lethal. Together with the ever growing list of volunteer donors and umbilical cord blood banks, this has resulted in life saving therapy for thousands of patients yearly. We present an overview of the procedure from its cradle to the most novel applications, as well as the results of the HSC transplant program developed at our institution since 1989. <![CDATA[<b>Bioethical aspects of basic research and medical applications of human stem cells</b>]]> The new discoveries, the extraordinary dynamism in human stem cell (SC) research, and the great expectations of the benefits in clinical treatment of many diseases are on the edge of unparalleled advances in both: 1) the understanding of basic mechanisms of cell differentiation and development and 2) the translation from basic research to new clinical therapies. Human stem cells are obtained from different sources, such as embryo, fetal, and adult tissues, in vitro induction (iPS cells) or transdifferentiation. The evidence that these cells are pluripotent (or multipotent), meaning they have the ability to differentiate into all body tissues or tissues of the same lineage, raises the possibility that they could regenerate diseased or damaged tissue in diseases that until now have had no effective treatments. Human stem cell research and therapy raise important bioethical considerations because of the human nature of these cells and their peculiar characteristics. Here we discuss the bioethical aspects of basic human SC research and the conditions necessary for the translation of basic preclinical research into clinical use of SC.