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Stem Cells International
Volume 2013, Article ID 547501, 6 pages
Review Article

Are Mesenchymal Cells Indeed Pluripotent Stem Cells or Just Stromal Cells? OCT-4 and VSELs Biology Has Led to Better Understanding

Stem Cell Biology Department, National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health, Parel, Mumbai 400 012, India

Received 3 April 2013; Revised 6 August 2013; Accepted 26 August 2013

Academic Editor: Kenneth Boheler

Copyright © 2013 Deepa Bhartiya. 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.


Stem cells have excited researchers because of their potential to regenerate. However, which stem cells will be the best candidate for regenerative medicine remains an enigma. Compared to pluripotent stem cells with associated risks of immune rejection and teratoma formation, adult stem cells especially the mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are hyped to be a suitable alternate since they also exhibit pluripotent properties. This review shows that there is a subpopulation of pluripotent very small embryonic-like stem cells (VSELs) among MSCs culture. The two populations differ from each other in expression pattern of OCT-4. VSELs exhibit nuclear OCT-4A, whereas the MSCs have cytoplasmic OCT-4B, similar to our earlier findings in testis and ovary. Pluripotent VSELs with nuclear OCT-4A exist in various adult body organs, and the immediate progenitors express cytoplasmic OCT-4B which is eventually lost as the cell differentiates further. To conclude it is essential to discriminate between nuclear and cytoplasmic OCT-4 expression and also to acknowledge the presence of VSELs.