Since their discovery in 1960, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been found to migrate to assist and support the repair of injured tissue.  In addition, and more importantly, MSCs have demonstrated therapeutic effects resulting from their ability to modulate various cells found in both the innate and adaptive immune systems.

To date, over 900 clinical trials have used MSCs to explore various diseases ranging from bone/cartilage repair, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, immune-related, and neurological disorders by promoting neovascularization, increasing angiogenesis, enhancing cell viability, and inhibiting cell death.

While there have been promising results from animal studies, further research is taking place to determine the therapeutic efficacy of MSCs.  Fan et al.’s review summarizes the progress of specific mechanisms underlying the tissue regenerative properties and immunomodulatory effects of MSCs and provides an overview of the current research on the rapid development of MSC-based therapies.

According to Fan et al., the therapeutic potential of MSCs is attributed to two specific aspects: replacement of the damaged tissue through differentiating into various cell lineages and regulation of immune response by immunomodulatory function. The major mechanism underlying MSC-based therapy appears to be the paracrine function, which allows for reduction of inflammation and increased cell proliferation while the tissue is being repaired.

Additionally, MSCs have been well demonstrated to have exceptional potential for differential.  Upon transplantation, MSCs’ ability to differentiate appears to be the key to successful integration into the tissue of the host. Their ability to differentiate also appears to depend on factors such as donor age, tissue origin, cell passage numbers, cell densities, and duration of cell culture, so the authors are calling for further study to better understand the mechanisms of regulatory pathways and to improve differentiation efficacy.

Although MSC-based therapies have demonstrated significant progress, a full understanding of the ability of MSCs has made it a challenge to advance into daily clinical application. According to this review, the key factors for this happening appear to be large variability in important factors, such as cell source, dosage, administration route, and timing of the administration. 


Since inconsistencies among these factors appear to affect the therapeutic value of MSCs, the authors call for standardization of procedures of MSC isolation and expansion in future clinical therapies. The authors also point out that the therapeutic potentials of MSCs are attributed to complex cellular and molecular mechanisms of action which require additional in-depth exploration for clinical application.

MSCs have been demonstrated to be an important source of stem cell therapies.  However, there is still a need for additional large-scale, randomized, blinded, and controlled trials to fully demonstrate the therapeutic benefits associated with MSCs.  As a result of this review, Fan et al. conclude that further clarification of the predominant mechanisms in different situations is an important step in improving the safety, efficacy, and outcomes of MSC-based therapies.

Source: (n.d.). Mechanisms underlying the protective effects of mesenchymal stem …. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7223321/

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