Human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) derived from adult tissues have been considered a candidate cell type for cell-based tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. These multipotent cells have the ability to differentiate along several mesenchymal lineages and possibly along non-mesenchymal lineages. MSCs possess considerable immunosuppressive properties that can influence the surrounding tissue positively during regeneration, but perhaps negatively towards the pathogenesis of cancer and metastasis. The balance between the naïve stem state and differentiation is highly dependent on the stem cell niche. Identification of stem cell niche components has helped to elucidate the mechanisms of stem cell maintenance and differentiation. Ultimately, the fate of stem cells is dictated by their microenvironment. In this review, we describe the identification and characterization of bone marrow-derived MSCs, the properties of the bone marrow stem cell niche, and the possibility and likelihood of MSC involvement in cancer progression and metastasis.
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