Stem cells under the influence of alcohol: effects of ethanol consumption on stem/progenitor cells

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Stem cells drive embryonic and fetal development. In several adult tissues, they retain the ability to self-renew and differentiate into a variety of specialized cells, thus contributing to tissue homeostasis and repair throughout life span. Alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk for several diseases and conditions. Growing and developing tissues are particularly vulnerable to alcohol’s influence, suggesting that stem- and progenitor-cell function could be affected. Accordingly, recent studies have revealed the possible relevance of alcohol exposure in impairing stem-cell properties, consequently affecting organ development and injury response in different tissues. Here, we review the main studies describing the effects of alcohol on different types of progenitor/stem cells including neuronal, hepatic, intestinal and adventitial progenitor cells, bone-marrow-derived stromal cell, dental pulp, embryonic and hematopoietic stem cells, and tumor-initiating cells. A better understanding of the nature of the cellular damage induced by chronic and episodic heavy (binge) drinking is critical for the improvement of current therapeutic strategies designed to treat patients suffering from alcohol-related disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-244
Number of pages14
JournalCellular and Molecular Life Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 30 2018


  • Acetaldehyde
  • Alcohol dehydrogenase
  • Alcohol-related disorders
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
  • Mesenchymal stromal cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology


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