The immunosuppressive ability of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) coupled with their potential to serve important therapeutic roles in a wide range of immune disorders have resulted in a significant increase in the number of clinical studies examining the role of cellular therapy in a wide range of applications.

Of particular interest is MSCs’ ability to migrate towards inflamed environments, produce anti-inflammatory cytokines, and their ability to conceal themselves from the natural immune system.

As part of this review, Mishra et al. address the immunomodulatory properties and immunosuppressive actions of MSCs. The authors also summarize various responses of MSCs in treating a number of immune disorders, including inflammatory diseases, metabolic disorders, and diabetes.

Immunomodulation has been identified as one of the primary functions of MSCs, autocrine and paracrine activities, and evasion of innate immunity. When it comes to immunomodulation, and depending on their specific environment, MSCs have been demonstrated to be either pro or anti-inflammatory.

In certain situations, and when exposed to low levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, MSCs have been shown to produce an enhanced immune response with neutrophils moving to the site of inflammation and acting mainly by phagocytosis. On the other hand, when part of the anti-inflammatory conditions, and especially in wounds, infections, and organ transplants, MSCs have successfully demonstrated the ability to suppress the immune response.

Research has demonstrated MSCs to have beneficial effects on many different disease models, including myocardial infarction, hepatic fibrosis, and cancer. 

Interestingly, the authors of this review point out that, although adipose tissue is considered to be the preferred source of adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells – specifically for its potential related to healing, tissue engineering, and hepatocellular carcinoma – the health of the adipose tissue appears to matter. Specifically, it appears that adipose tissue gathered from obese patients demonstrates the potential to be dysfunctional. Adipose tissue dysfunction resulting from overnutrition demonstrates an increase in serious LDL and VLDL which ultimately is thought to contribute to impaired multipotency of MSCs.

While Mishra et al. conclude that MSCs possess the potential for significant therapeutic benefits, they also call for future research with standardized and validated isolation and culture protocols with lineage differentiation and stimulation method to ease the animal and clinical studies. They also point out that in order to further understand the therapeutic potential of MSCS, additional study of cell modification, injection frequency, and dosages is required.

Source: “Identifying the Therapeutic Significance of Mesenchymal Stem Cells.” 6 May. 2020, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7291143/.

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