Stem cells and their niche: a matter of fate

Embryonic stem cells provide an in vitro model for developmental biologists to study cell fate decisions during ontogenesis, while somatic stem cells allow physiologists to understand tissue homeostasis in the adult. The behavior of stem cells is dependent on an intimate relationship with a supportive niche. This brief review highlights some of the most important recent trends in stem cell biology, focusing in particular on the supportive microenvironments for both embryonic and adult stem cells. Known intrinsic and extrinsic molecular players from the best-characterized stem cell types are summarized, illuminating a number of shared environmental cues among tissues originating from all three embryonic germ layers.


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