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Mesodermal fate decisions of a stem cell: the Wnt switch.


Stem cells are a powerful resource for cell-based transplantation therapies in osteodegenerative disorders, but before some kinds of stem cells can be applied clinically, several aspects of their expansion and differentiation need to be better controlled. Wnt molecules and members of the Wnt signaling cascade have been ascribed a role in both these processes in vitro as well as normal development in vivo. However some results are controversial. In this review we will present the hypothesis that both canonical and non-canonical signaling are involved in mesenchymal cell fate regulation, such as adipogenesis, chondrogenesis and osteogenesis, and that in vitro it is a timely switch between the two that specifies the identity of the differentiating cell. We will specifically focus on the in vitro differentiation of adipocytes, chondrocytes and osteoblasts contrasting embryonic and mesenchymal stem cells as well as the role of Wnts in mesenchymal fate specification during embryogenesis.

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