Health Problems

A call to clear up the definition of ‘mesenchymal stem cells’

A trio of concerned scientists is issuing a warning regarding use of the phrase “mesenchymal stem cells” or more popularly, MSCs. They claim the phrase is no longer useful because it encompasses too many cell types and because it has come to be associated with unproven medical applications. Douglas Sipp with the RIKEN research institute, Pamela Robey with the National Institutes of Health, and Leigh Turner with the University of Minnesota have together published a Comment piece in the journal Nature, calling for the phrase to be revised or eliminated from use.

Sipp, Robey and Turner note that the phrase was originally coined by biologist Arnold Caplan to describe cells he had found in bone marrow—cells that were able to differentiate into bone or cartilage. Since that time, many other researchers have used the term to describe cells in other body parts that were found to differentiate into certain types of tissue. But as the term became more well known, some scientists began to use it to describe different types of cells, some of which may not have been stem cells. And others began using it to refer to certain types of pluripotent cells, which are supposed to be capable of differentiating into virtually any type of tissue.

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