Purpose of Review Stem cells reside in specialized anatomical locations called niches where supportive stromal cells and the extracellular matrix (ECM) regulate their self-renewal and differentiation. This review explores the critical roles of the ECM in stem cell maintenance in tissue homeostasis, aging, and disease.
Recent Findings It is well established that ECM proteins and their biomechanical properties control stem cell fate. In addition to specific molecular interactions, the ECM composition determines the topology and stiffness of the substrate, which also regulate stem cell behavior. Changes in the ECM during aging and disease can impair cell-ECM interactions and ultimately contribute to aging and disease pathogenesis.
Summary A deeper understanding of the mechanisms by which the ECM regulates stem cell behavior in health, as well as during aging and in disease states, will facilitate the development of therapeutic strategies. These therapies should focus on recovering normal matrix synthesis and deposition aiming at promoting endogenous repair.