Murine and human very small embryonic-like cells: A perspective



In 2006, very small embryonic-like (VSEL) stem cells were described as a pluripotent population of prospectively isolated stem cells in adult murine bone marrow (mBM) and human umbilical cord blood (hUCB). While rigorous proof of pluripotency is still lacking, murine VSEL cells have been shown to overlap with an independently identified population of neural crest derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSC). The presence of primitive mesenchymal precursors within the VSEL cell population may partially explain the findings that have led to the concept of an “embryonic-like” stem cell in mBM. However, our own studies on human VSEL cells revealed very little similarity between murine VSEL cells and their reportedly equivalent population in hUCB. On the contrary, our data strongly suggest that human VSEL cells are an aberrant and inactive population that cannot expand in vitro and has neither embryonic nor adult stem cell like properties. Here we critically re-examine the data supporting stemness and pluripotency of murine and human VSEL cells, respectively. © 2012 International Society for Advancement of Cytometry