The human uterus mainly consists of the endometrium and the outer smooth muscle layer termed the myometrium. The uterus harbours the exceptional and remarkable regenerative ability responsible for cyclical regeneration and remodelling throughout the reproductive life. The uterus must swiftly and cooperatively enlarge to hold the growing foetus during pregnancy. Furthermore, the endometrium, in particular the functionalis layer, must also regenerate, differentiate and regress with each menstrual cycle under hormonal control. Endometrial regeneration from the basal layer is thought to contribute to replacement of the functionalis layer followed by its slough off during menses and parturition. These morphological and functional features of human endometrium can be reproduced in murine models in which severely immunodeficient mice are xenotransplanted with dispersed human endometrial cells under the kidney capsule. The uterine myometrium possesses the similar plasticity of the endometrium. This is demonstrated by multiple cycles of pregnancyinduced enlargement and regression after parturition. It is likely that regeneration and remodelling in the female reproductive tract are achieved presumably through endometrial and myometrial stem cell systems. Recent evidence now supports the existence of these stem cell systems in humans. Here, we will review our current understanding of uterine stem/progenitor cells. We also propose a novel hypothetical model in which stem cell activities explain the physiological remodelling and regeneration of the human uterus and the pathogenesis of gynaecological diseases such as endometriosis.
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