Stem Cells

Part of the Updates in Surgery book series (UPDATESSURG, volume 0)


To fully understand the biological meaning of the term stem cell (SC) it is useful to clarify the derivation of the root staminal, even though modern research published in English-speaking journals never seem to use the term staminal. While there are no doubts that the term SC originated in the context of two major embryological questions, the continuity of the germ-plasm and the origin of the hematopoietic system [1], it is not clear at all which is its etymological derivation. This is a relevant point for the consequences and the impacts that SC biology has in society, particularly on the beliefs of lay-people (i.e. decision makers) who so frequently impact on research freedom. We would like to suggest that the term is in fact a neo-Latin word (the adjective *staminalis, -e never existed in Latin!) that was coined in an English-speaking scientific environment. In any case, the word originates from the Latin stamen, -inis, a neutral noun that is formed by two distinct morphemes: the lexical base (of Indo-European origin) *sta- to be firmly placed; to remain; and the derivational morpheme (of Indo-European origin) *-men-, which is widely used to form nouns that indicate firstly the production of the effect of an action, and hence, by implication, the effect of the action itself. Some examples of the -men morpheme in Latin include: ag-men army on the march; lu-men the glare of the light (vs. lux absolute/real light); ful-men, the flash that precedes thunder; cri-men, the action of separating/selecting and so figuratively, the object of selection; se-men, in the first place, the action of sowing, and consequently that which is sown.


Immortal Strand Hypothesis Term Stem Cell 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Italia 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Scientific Department, Fondazione IRCCS Policlinico San MatteoUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly
  2. 2.Laboratory of Developmental BiologyUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly

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