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BioMed Research International
Volume 2013, Article ID 310859, 8 pages
Review Article

Cells with Stem Cell Characteristics in Somatic Compartments of the Ovary

Clinic of Gynecological Endocrinology and Reproductive Medicine and Department of Biomedicine, University of Basel, 4031 Basel, Switzerland

Received 27 September 2012; Revised 26 November 2012; Accepted 27 November 2012

Academic Editor: Irma Virant-Klun

Copyright © 2013 Katarzyna Kossowska-Tomaszczuk and Christian De Geyter. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Antral follicular growth in the ovary is characterized by rapid expansion of granulosa cells accompanied by a rising complexity of their functionality. Within two weeks the number of human granulosa cells increases from less than 500,000 to more than 50 millions cells per follicle and differentiates into groups of cells with a variety of specialized functions involved in steroidogenesis, nursing the oocyte, and forming a functional syncitium. Both the rapid proliferation and different specialized functions of the granulosa cells can only be explained through the involvement of stem cells. However, luteinizing granulosa cells were believed to be terminally differentiated cells. Only recently, stem and progenitor cells with FSH-receptor activity were identified in populations of luteinizing granulosa cells obtained during oocyte collected for assisted reproduction. In the presence of the leukaemia-inhibiting factor (LIF), it was possible to culture a subpopulation of the luteinizing granulosa cells over prolonged time periods. Furthermore, when embedded in a matrix consisting of collagen type I, these cells continued to express the FSH receptor over prolonged time periods, developed globular formations that surrogated as follicle-like structures, providing a promising tool for reproductive biology.