Stem cells reside in niches where spatially restricted signals maintain a delicate balance between stem cell self-renewal and differentiation. Wnt family proteins are particularly suited for this role as they are modified by lipids,which constrain and spatially regulate their signalling range. In recent years, Wnt/b-catenin signalling has been shown to be essential for the self-renewal of a variety of mammalian stem cells. In this review, we discuss Wnt-responsive stem cells in their niche, and mechanisms by which Wnt ligands are presented to responsive cells. We also highlight recent progressin molecular visualization that has allowed for the monitoring of Wnt signalling within the stem cell compartment and new approaches to recapitulate this niche signalling in vitro. Indeed, new technologies that present Wnt in a localized manner and mimic the three-dimensional microenvironment of stem cells will advance our understanding of Wnt signalling in the stem cell niche. These advances will expand current horizons to exploit Wnt ligands in the rapidly evolving fields of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.
- Adult and embryonic stem cells
- Cell therapy and regenerative medicine
- Protein immobilization
- Stem cell niche
- Tissue engineering
- Wnt signalling