Epigenetic Mechanisms Regulating Mesenchymal Stem Cell Differentiation
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Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells (hMSCs) have emerged in the last few years as one of the most promising therapeutic cell sources and, in particular, as an important tool for regenerative medicine of skeletal tissues. Although they present a more restricted potency than Embryonic Stem (ES) cells, the use of hMCS in regenerative medicine avoids many of the drawbacks characteristic of ES cells or induced pluripotent stem cells. The challenge in using these cells lies into developing precise protocols for directing cellular differentiation to generate a specific cell lineage. In order to achieve this goal, it is of the upmost importance to be able to control de process of fate decision and lineage commitment. This process requires the coordinate regulation of different molecular layers at transcriptional, posttranscriptional and translational levels. At the transcriptional level, switching on and off different sets of genes is achieved not only through transcriptional regulators, but also through their interplay with epigenetic modifiers. It is now well known that epigenetic changes take place in an orderly way through development and are critical in the determination of lineage-specific differentiation. More importantly, alteration of these epigenetic changes would, in many cases, lead to disease generation and even tumour formation. Therefore, it is crucial to elucidate how epigenetic factors, through their interplay with transcriptional regulators, control lineage commitment in hMSCs.