heart cells

Ancestor Cells and Precursor Cells

Stem Cell Regeneration Center Glossary

Ancestor cell or precursor cell are generic term for a cell that has no capability to renew itself, although it has been found to generate tissue stem cells in some cases, thus contributing to the formation of tissues.

Ancestor Cells and Precursor Cells

Both “ancestor cells” and “precursor cells” are terms that refer to cells from which other cells are derived, but their usage and context can vary. Let’s break down each term:

Ancestor Cells:

  1. General Context: This term is often used in a broader evolutionary and developmental context. An ancestor cell is typically a progenitor from which a lineage or lineages of cells have evolved. For example, the last universal common ancestor (LUCA) is believed to be the ancestor cell of all living organisms.
  2. Evolutionary Lineage: In evolutionary biology, tracing back the lineage of a specific cell type or organism may lead to an ancestral cell type from which different modern cells or organisms have diverged.
  3. Not Strictly Developmental: While the term can be used in developmental biology, “ancestor cell” does not necessarily imply a direct developmental precursor in the way “precursor cell” does. Instead, it might refer to a more distant progenitor or an evolutionary antecedent.

Precursor Cells:

  1. Developmental Context: This term is frequently used to describe cells that directly give rise to other, more differentiated cell types. For instance, in the nervous system, neural precursor cells can give rise to neurons, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes.
  2. Intermediate Stage: Precursor cells often occupy an intermediate stage in the development or differentiation pathway. They are more specialized than stem cells but less specialized than fully differentiated cells.
  3. Specific Lineage: Precursor cells are typically committed to a specific lineage or fate. For example, an erythroid precursor cell will give rise only to red blood cells.

While both terms refer to cells from which other cells are derived, “ancestor cells” often have an evolutionary or broader developmental connotation, tracing back to a common origin of multiple cell types or species. In contrast, “precursor cells” are typically used in a more immediate developmental context, referring to cells that are direct antecedents to specific, more differentiated cell types.