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Abstract

The field of stem cell biology is currently being redefined. Stem cell (hematopoietic and non-hematopoietic) differentiation has been considered hierarchical in nature, but recent data suggest that there is no progenitor/stem cell hierarchy, but rather a reversible continuum. The stem cell (hematopoietic and non-hematopoietic) phenotype, the total differentiation capacity (hematopoietic and non-hematopoietic), gene expression as well as other stem cell functional characteristics (homing, receptor and adhesion molecule expression) vary throughout a cell-cycle transit widely. This seems to be dependent on shifting chromatin and gene expression with cell-cycle transit. The published data on DNA methylation, histone acetylation, and also RNAi, the major regulators of gene expression, conjoins very well and provides an explanation for the major issues of stem cell biology. Those features of stem cells mentioned above can be rather difficult to apprehend when a classical hierarchy biology view is applied, but they become clear and easier to understand once they are correlated with the underlining epigenetic changes. We are entering a new era of stem cell biology the era of “chromatinomics.” We are one step closer to the practical use of cellular therapy for degenerative diseases. J. Cell. Physiol. 201: 1–16, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.