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BioMed Research International
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 682326, 10 pages
Review Article

Very Small Embryonic-Like Stem Cells: Implications in Reproductive Biology

Stem Cell Biology Department, National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health (ICMR), Mumbai, Maharashtra 400 012, India

Received 5 September 2012; Accepted 12 October 2012

Academic Editor: Irma Virant-Klun

Copyright © 2013 Deepa Bhartiya et al. 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.


The most primitive germ cells in adult mammalian testis are the spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) whereas primordial follicles (PFs) are considered the fundamental functional unit in ovary. However, this central dogma has recently been modified with the identification of a novel population of very small embryonic-like stem cells (VSELs) in the adult mammalian gonads. These stem cells are more primitive to SSCs and are also implicated during postnatal ovarian neo-oogenesis and primordial follicle assembly. VSELs are pluripotent in nature and characterized by nuclear Oct-4A, cell surface SSEA-4, and other pluripotent markers like Nanog, Sox2, and TERT. VSELs are considered to be the descendants of epiblast stem cells and possibly the primordial germ cells that persist into adulthood and undergo asymmetric cell division to replenish the gonadal germ cells throughout life. Elucidation of their role during infertility, endometrial repair, superovulation, and pathogenesis of various reproductive diseases like PCOS, endometriosis, cancer, and so on needs to be addressed. Hence, a detailed review of current understanding of VSEL biology is pertinent, which will hopefully open up new avenues for research to better understand various reproductive processes and cancers. It will also be relevant for future regenerative medicine, translational research, and clinical applications in human reproduction.