Identification of an adult stem/progenitor cell-like population in the human thyroid

Alessandra Fierabracci, Maria Ausiliatrice Puglisi, Laura Giuliani, Stefano Mattarocci, Marco Gallinella-Muzi

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There is evidence that tissue-specific stem cells reside in certain adult tissues. Their specific properties remain elusive, because they are rare and heterogeneous in parent tissues; furthermore, technical difficulties have been encountered in the identification and characterization of their progeny. The aim of this study was to isolate stem/progenitor cells from the human thyroid. We devised a method based on the enzymatic digestion of fresh surgical thyroid specimens, followed by culture of cells in the presence of epidermal growth factor and basic fibroblast growth factor. We also used markers that identify and characterize these cells. Spheroids with self-replicative potential were obtained from all thyroid specimens. The isolated population contained a subset of CD34 + CD45 - cells and it was able, in differentiation conditions, to generate follicles with thyroid hormonal production. In support of the plasticity concept, we obtained evidence that, when most freshly isolated spheroids were co-cultured with a neuroblastoma cell line, they produced progeny expressing the neuronal marker β-tubulin III. Spheroids were also able to undergo adipogenic differentiation when cultured in adipogenic medium. We conclude that a predominant functional type of stem/progenitor cell exists within the thyroid, with an intrinsic ability to generate thyroidal cells and the potential to produce non-thyroidal cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-487
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Endocrinology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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