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Mitochondrial Heterogeneity: Evaluating Mitochondrial Subpopulation Dynamics In Stem Cells

D. C. Woods

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Although traditionally viewed as the “powerhouse” of the cell, an accruing body of evidence in the rapidly growing field of mitochondrial biology supports additional roles of mitochondria as key participants in a multitude of cellular functions. While it has been well established that mitochondria in different tissues have distinctive ultrastructural features consistent with differential bioenergetic demands, recent and emerging technical advances in flow cytometry, imaging, and “-omics”-based bioinformatics have only just begun to explore the complex and divergent properties of mitochondria within tissues and cell types. Moreover, contemporary studies evaluating the role of mitochondria in pluripotent stem cells, cellular reprogramming, and differentiation point to a potential importance of mitochondrial subpopulations and heterogeneity in the field of stem cell biology. This review assesses the current literature regarding mitochondrial subpopulations within cell and tissue types and evaluates the current understanding of how mitochondrial diversity and heterogeneity might impact cell fate specification in pluripotent stem cells.