Adult stem cells are self-renewing, pluripotent, and able to repopulate the tissue in which they reside. Cells endowed with these properties have been isolated from several tissues and an increasing number of reports provide evidence of their ability, following transplantation, to engraft host tissues other than those of their origin. In this setting, interest in the well-documented capacity of bone marrow stromal cells to undergo multilineage differentiation is growing. Neural and cardiomyogenic lineages have recently been proposed as additional differentiative pathways of these cells. However, culture conditions and inductive molecules can alter-the behavior of bone marrow stromal cells and the microenvironment is critical for proper in vivo delivery. The maintenance of their stem properties and the possibility of reprogramming their commitment is a field of primary interest given the potential use of these cells in regenerative medicine. We discuss here how the microenvironmental cues, and the growth factors that physiologically govern commitment and subsequent differentiation, influence the properties of bone marrow stromal cells and modulate their engraftment into host tissues.
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