During the past several years, it has become increasingly possible to study adult stem cells in their native territories within tissues. These studies have provided new evidence for the existence of stem cells in the breast, muscle, lung and kidney and have led to a deeper understanding of the best-known stem cells in Drosophila and mice. Tissue stem cells are turning out to be diverse, with varying division rates, lineage lengths, and mechanisms of regulation. In addition, stem cells are now known to engage in a wide variety of interactions with neighboring cells and extracellular matrices, and to respond to various neural and hormonal signals. Stem cell niches are also diverse, sometimes harboring multiple stem cell types. Internally, a stem cell's chromatin and cytoskeletal organization play key roles. Understanding how stem cells and their progeny are controlled will illuminate fundamental biological mechanisms that govern the construction and maintenance of tissues within metazoan animals.
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