Telocytes (TCs) represent a new type of interstitial cells, and were discovered by Prof. Popescu and his collaborators from Bucharest in 2005, and described as Interstitial Cajal-Like Cells (ICLCs). In 2010, Prof. Popescu and Prof. Faussone-Pellegrini from Florence, based on their expertise in morphology, agreed that in fact ICLCs were a brand-new entity and they renamed them telocytes. TCs are characterized by specific veil- or ribbon-like extensions called telopodes. Telopodes aid TCs in forming homo- or hetero-cellular contacts; thus, assembling three-dimensional networks that organizes the stromal and the parenchymal components of the organs. TCs can transfer information to neighbor cells ensuring a short-distance communication, and remotely by the release a wide variety of extracellular vesicles: exosomes, ectosomes, and multivesicular bodies. Here, we reviewed the evolution of the interest regarding TCs in different organs, in normal and pathological conditions. The main focus was on the role of TCs in gastrointestinal tract, urinary bladder, reproductive tract, and heart. This chapter sums up information about the possibilities that TCs are capable to behave as sensors/mediators in nervous activity, to represent mesenchymal stem cell precursors in adulthood, and to control and determine the differentiation/maturation of other cell types either during development or in postnatal life.
Part of the book: Innovations in Cell Research and Therapy