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The Stem Cell Niche and Its Role in Self-Renewal, Aging, and Malignancy

Stem Cells

  1. Peter Breslin S.J.,
  2. Andrew Volk,
  3. Jiwang Zhang

Published Online: 10 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/3527600906.mcb.201200010

Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine

Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine

How to Cite

Peter Breslin, S., Volk, A. and Zhang, J. 2013. The Stem Cell Niche and Its Role in Self-Renewal, Aging, and Malignancy. Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine. .

Author Information

  1. Loyola University Medical Center, Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Department of Pathology, Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Maywood, IL, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 10 FEB 2013


Cells within tissues are organized in specific patterns supported by constructive materials, such as stromal cells and extracellular matrix (ECM), and are regulated by cell binding and diffused factors. These patterned areas are determined by signals from adjacent cells which form a microenvironment. Stem cells reside in a specialized location of the tissue characterized by a unique microenvironment; this location is referred to as the “stem cell niche.”

Signaling in the niche regulates the balance of self-renewal and differentiation in stem cells, and plays an important role in tissue generation during homeostasis and regeneration in response to damage. The niche provides a shelter that protects stem cells against unwanted insults, and also provides the correct factors to support self-renewal and maintains the undifferentiated state of the stem cells. Because of the role that niche dysregulation plays in malignancies and tissue degeneration, the niche and niche signaling can be used as targets to develop drugs to potentially treat these diseases. Alterations in niche signaling are also involved the aging process, as they influence stem cell behavior. Thus, the manipulation of niche signaling may enable the most effective strategies for cancer prevention, for slowing down the natural aging program, and for treating aging-related disorders.


  • Stem cell;
  • Niche;
  • Quiescence;
  • Aging;
  • Cancer stem cell