Is there any gland in which there are no stem cells?

I know that:

  • sebaceous gland is maintained by unipotent stem cells
  • thyroid gland - some stem cells, apparently unipotent

Glands about which potency I am not sure

  • pancreas gland - contains probably many types stem cells, at least unipotent
  • pituitary gland - not sure if any exist

I cannot find any such gland that does not have stem cells.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Interesting question! You can add pituitary and pancreas to the mix. $\endgroup$
    – nico
    Commented Jun 19, 2012 at 5:58

1 Answer 1


Stem cells are not all 'unipotent' - they cannot necessarily differentiate into any type of cell. For instance, resident stem cells in tissues such as muscle - myo-satellite cells - are partially differentiated and during cell division one daughter differentiates further to become a myocyte (for example), and the other daughter the replacement myosatellite cell. As far as I'm aware, the majority of tissues have resident stem cells in varying degrees of differentiation (exceptions might include neurons and cardiac muscle, where cells are not replaced over the lifespan of the organism).

Here is some evidence for resident stem cells in glands;

  • The adult pituitary gland shows stem/progenitor cell activation in response to injury and is capable of regeneration (Fu et al, 2012),
  • The pancreas has been heavily studied from the perspective of diabetes research, with many studies looking to implant stem cells from elsewhere (Rezania et al, 2012). However there is some evidence for resident stem cells of the pancreas that may turn out to be more promising as treatment strategies in the future (Xu et al, 2004, Venkatesan et al, 2011),
  • Sebaceous glands are found throughout the skin, and secrete 'sebum' which keeps the skin waxy and waterproof. There is plenty of evidence for epidermal stem cells (Eckert et al, 2012),
  • There is also recent evidence for the existence of thyroid stem cells too (Fierabracci, 2012, Malaguarnera et al, 2012),
  • Saliva is mainly produced by the submandibular glands also contain resident stem cells, with this paper stating that stem cells have been isolted from salivary glands in humans (Okumura et al, 2012),

Given the limited (and very recent) evidence for the above (relatively well characterizd) glands, it seems likely that other glands will also have resident stem cells that remain to be identified.

Ageing: The so-called stem-cell pool gets depleted over a lifetime, so tissues lose the regenerative potential. However rejuvenation medicine is becoming a heavily invested in area of research (see www.SENS.org).


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