Research Topic

Immunomodulatory Properties of Adult Stem Cells: Implications for the Niche Microenvironment in Homeostasis and Disease

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Stem cells represent a groundbreaking discovery of the past century. In the recent decades, a large number of original articles have focused on the identification of stem cell niches in adult tissues, such as bone marrow, dental pulp, and the biliary tree. It is well known that stem cells have peculiar ...

Stem cells represent a groundbreaking discovery of the past century. In the recent decades, a large number of original articles have focused on the identification of stem cell niches in adult tissues, such as bone marrow, dental pulp, and the biliary tree. It is well known that stem cells have peculiar characteristics including self renewal, differentiation, and regenerative properties. Moreover, there are many studies that highlight molecular mechanisms and differentiation capabilities of distinct stem cell niches.

As recently reported, another feature of stem cells is their ability to clonally regenerate the adult tissue from which they embryologically derive, meaning all cell types that constitute that tissue. Even if this is an extremely difficult criterion to satisfy, the clinical translation of the use of stem cells is expected to take into account their embryological origin. Another important property of stem cells is their low immunogenic phenotype and their immunomodulatory properties which are critical for regulating the homeostasis of the niche microenvironment.

Stem cells are particularly prone to becoming cancer cells of origin, especially in chronic inflammatory-associated cancer, such as primary liver cancers, where stem cell regenerative proliferation and specific immune-escaping properties create a “perfect storm” which drives an increased risk of cancer development. Stem cells may exert immunomodulation through different pathways. The immune check-point inhibition in cancer development and progression could be seen as a phenomenon affecting the stem niche microenvironment from inflammation to cancer.

Moreover, the niche microenvironment is increasingly studied in order to better understand regeneration and carcinogenesis so as to provide innovative targets and biomarkers. Among the cellular components of the stem cell niche, immune cells are acquiring significant biological relevance in homeostasis, regeneration of diseased tissues, and carcinogenesis. While macrophages which have been studied extensively, new cell types, such as T-Reg lymphocytes, are now receiving increased attention.

To this regard, the aim of this Research Topic is to describe the immunomodulatory properties of adult stem cells and the role of the immune cells governing the niche microenvironment, both during homeostasis and disease progression.


Keywords: Stem cells, Immunomodulation, Microenvirorment, Cancer Stem Cells, Inflammation


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