Recently, adult stem cells have been identified in several mature tissues. The human endometrium is responsive to sex steroid hormone. It undergoes extraordinary growth in a cyclic manner and is shed and regenerated throughout a woman's lifetime. It has been proposed that the human endometrium may contain a population of stem cells, which are responsible for its remarkable regenerative ability. It is also suggested that stem-like cells exist in cancer tissues. Stem-like cell subpopulations, referred to as "side population" (SP) cells, have been identified in several tissues and tumors based on their ability to efflux the fluorescent dye Hoechst 33342. Recently, we isolated and characterized the SP cells in normal human endometrium and in an endometrial cancer (EC) cell line. Endometrial SP cells can function as progenitor cells. EC SP cells show the following: (1) reductions in the expression levels of differentiation markers; (2) long-term repopulating properties; (3) self-renewal capacity; (4) enhancement of migration and podia formation; (5) enhancement of tumorigenicity; and (6) bipotent developmental potential (tumor cells and stroma-like cells), suggesting that these SP cells have cancer stem-like cell features. We review the articles that show the presence of stem cells in normal endometrium and EC cells and demonstrate the results of our studies.
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