A Revised Perspective of Skeletal Stem Cell Biology

A Revised Perspective of Skeletal Stem Cell Biology


Bone-related maladies are a major health burden on modern society. Loss of skeletal integrity and regeneration capacity through aging, obesity, and disease follows from a detrimental shift in bone formation and resorption dynamics. Targeting tissue-resident adult stem cells offers a potentially innovative paradigm in the development of therapeutic strategies against organ dysfunction. While the essential role of skeletal stem cells (SSCs) for development, growth, and maintenance of the skeleton has been generally established, a common consensus on the exact identity and definition of a pure bona fide SSC population remains elusive. The controversies stem from conflicting results between different approaches and criteria for isolation, detection, and functional evaluation; along with the interchangeable usage of the terms SSC and “mesenchymal stromal/stem cell (MSC)”. A great number of prospective bone-forming stem cell populations have been reported with various characteristic markers, often describing overlapping cell populations with widely unexplored heterogeneity, species specificity, and distribution at distinct skeletal sites, bone regions, and microenvironments, thereby creating confusion that may complicate future advances in the field. In this review, we examine the state-of-the-art knowledge of SSC biology and try to establish a common ground for the definition and terminology of specific bone-resident stem cells. We also discuss recent advances in the identification of highly purified SSCs, which will allow detailed interrogation of SSC diversity and regulation at the single-cell level.

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