Basic and clinical research accomplished during the last few years on embryonic, fetal, amniotic, umbilical cord blood, and adult stem cells has constituted a revolution in regenerative medicine and cancer therapies by providing the possibility of generating multiple therapeutically useful cell types. These new cells could be used for treating numerous genetic and degenerative disorders. Among them, age-related functional defects, hematopoietic and immune system disorders, heart failures, chronic liver injuries, diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, arthritis, and muscular, skin, lung, eye, and digestive disorders as well as aggressive and recurrent cancers could be successfully treated by stem cell-based therapies. This review focuses on the recent advancements in adult stem cell biology in normal and pathological conditions. We describe how these results have improved our understanding on critical and unique functions of these rare sub-populations of multipotent and undifferentiated cells with an unlimited self-renewal capacity and high plasticity. Finally, we discuss some major advances to translate the experimental models on ex vivo and in vivo expanded and/or differentiated stem cells into clinical applications for the development of novel cellular therapies aimed at repairing genetically altered or damaged tissues/organs in humans. A particular emphasis is made on the therapeutic potential of different tissue-resident adult stem cell types and their in vivo modulation for treating and curing specific pathological disorders.
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