MicroRNA biogenesis and their functions in regulating stem cell potency and differentiation

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Stem cells are unspecialized/undifferentiated cells that exist in embryos and adult tissues or can be converted from somatic differentiated cells. Use of stem cells for tissue regeneration and tissue engineering has been a cornerstone of the regenerative medicine. Stem cells are also believed to exist in cancer tissues, namely cancer stem cells (CSCs). Growing evidence suggests that CSCs are the culprit of cancer dormancy, progression and recurrence, and thus have recently received great attention. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a group of short, non-coding RNAs that regulate expression of a wide range of genes at a post-transcriptional manner. They are emerging as key regulators of stem cell behaviors. This mini review summarizes the basic biogenesis and mode of actions of miRNAs, recent progress and discoveries of miRNAs in cellular reprogramming, stem cell differentiation and cellular communication, as well as miRNAs in CSCs. Some potential of miRNAs in future biomedical applications and research pertaining to stem cells are briefly discussed.

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Biological procedures online

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