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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Mesenchymal stem cells as all-round supporters in a normal and neoplastic microenvironment

Ralf Hass* and Anna Otte

Author Affiliations

Biochemistry and Tumor Biology Lab, Gynecology Research Unit, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology (OE 6410), Medical University Hannover, Carl-Neuberg-Str. 1, 30625 Hannover, Germany

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Cell Communication and Signaling 2012, 10:26  doi:10.1186/1478-811X-10-26

Published: 3 September 2012

Abstract

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) represent a heterogeneous population exhibiting stem cell-like properties which are distributed almost ubiquitously among perivascular niches of various human tissues and organs. Organismal requirements such as tissue damage determine interdisciplinary functions of resident MSC including self-renewal, migration and differentiation, whereby MSC support local tissue repair, angiogenesis and concomitant immunomodulation. However, growth of tumor cells and invasion also causes local tissue damage and injury which subsequently activates repair mechanisms and consequently, attracts MSC. Thereby, MSC exhibit a tissue-specific functional biodiversity which is mediated by direct cell-to-cell communication via adhesion molecule signaling and by a tightly regulated exchange of a multifactorial panel of cytokines, exosomes, and micro RNAs. Such interactions determine either tumor-promoting or tumor-inhibitory support by MSC. Moreover, fusion with necrotic/apoptotic tumor cell bodies contributes to re-program MSC into an aberrant phenotype also suggesting that tumor tissue in general represents different types of neoplastic cell populations including tumor-associated stem cell-like cells. The present work summarizes some functional characteristics and biodiversity of MSC and highlights certain controversial interactions with normal and tumorigenic cell populations, including associated modulations within the MSC microenvironment.

Keywords:
Mesenchymal stem cells; Tumor cells; Microenvironment