Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are advantageous over other stem cells types for a variety of reasons. First, they avoid the ethical issues that surround embryonic stem cell research.
Second, repeated studies have found MSCs to be immuno-privileged, which make them an advantageous cell type for allogeneic transplantation. MSCs reduce both the risks of rejection and complications of transplantation.
Third, there have been advances in the use of autologous mesenchymal stem cells to regenerate human tissues, including cartilage, meniscus, tendons, and bone fractures, because MSCs can exert regenerative effects through honing to sites of damage, paracrine signalling, regulating the immune response, and affecting the microenvironment.
In combination, these traits make MSCs of intense therapeutic interest, because they represent a population of cells with the potential to treat a wide range of acute and degenerative diseases.
Benefits of MSCs Relative to Other Stem Cells
Interestingly, MSCs have a range of benefits compared to other stem cell types, as presented below:
- Well-Characterized: MSCs are a well-characterized population of adult stem cells, with over 36,000 scientific articles published about them.
- Non-Controversial: MSCs avoid the ethical issues of embryonic stem cells, as they can be derived from sources that include adult bone marrow and adipose tissue.
- Diverse Differentiation Potential: MSCs can form a variety of cell types in the laboratory, including those of both intra- and extra-mesenchymal lineage. These cell types include: fat (adipocytes), bone (osteoblasts), skin (dermal cells), nerve (neural cells), cartilage (chondrocytes), muscle (skeletal myocytes), tendons (tenocytes), marrow stroma, ligaments, and more.
- Ease of Growth in Culture: Advanced knowledge exists for how to grow MSCs in culture, including protocols for isolation, expansion, and differentiation.
- Flexible Propagation: MSCs can be grown and propagated in culture for extended periods, without losing differentiation potential.
- Clinically Relevant Volumes: Unlike many other types of adult stem cells, MSCs can be acquired in the quantities required for clinical applications, as knowledge exists for how to culture the cell type in 3D bioreactors. It is understood that reduced oxygen conditions, along with available nutrients, assist MSC expansion under bioreactor conditions.
- Role as Regulatory Cells: MSCs synthesize and secrete a variety of macromolecules that are known regulators of hematopoietic and bone-resorbing cells.
- Delivery of Gene Products: MSCs can take up exogenous DNA and keep introduced genes, an attribute that may allow use of the cells in therapeutic delivery of molecules to target regions of the body.
- Favorable Immune Status: MSCs lack the co-stimulatory molecules of the B7 family that are required to initiate an immune response. This allows the administration of MSC preparations across MHC barriers without concern for immunological rejection or the need for immunosuppression, making MSCs a universal stem cells source.
- Commercially Available Research Tools: Currently, dozens of research supply companies offer MSC-based products, making research tools for this cell type easily accessible.
To learn more, view the global strategic report “Mesenchymal Stem Cells – Advances & Applications.“
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 Tipnis S, Viswanathan C, Majumdar A. Immunosuppressive properties of human umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells: Role of B7-H1 and IDO. Immunology and Cell Biology 2010; 88: 795-806.