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Keywords:

  • Trans-differentiation;
  • Stem cell;
  • Adult bone marrow;
  • Tissue culture;
  • Artifact;
  • Neural differentiation

Abstract

Trans-differentiation is a mechanism proposed to explain how tissue-specific stem cells could generate cells of other organs, thus supporting the emerging concept of enhanced adult stem cell plasticity. Although spontaneous cell fusion rather than trans-differentiation may explain some unexpected cell fate changes in vivo, such a mechanism does not explain potential trans-differentiation events in vitro, including the generation of neural cell types from cultured bone marrow-derived stem cells. Here we present evidence that shows that cultured bone marrow-derived stem cells express neural proteins and form structures resembling neurons under defined growth conditions. We demonstrate that these changes in cell structure and neural protein expression are not consistent with typical neural development. Furthermore, the ability of bone marrow-derived stem cells to adopt a neural phenotype in vitro may occur as a result of cellular stress in response to removing cells from their niche and their growth in alternative environmental conditions. These findings suggest a potential explanation for the growth behavior of cultured bone marrow-derived stem cells and highlight the need to carefully validate the plasticity of stem cell differentiation.