Montreux, Switzerland | February 9, 2021 – Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) are cells found throughout the body tissues that are essential for producing and repairing structural such as cartilage, bone, and fat. They should not be confused with the hematopoietic stem cells which are principally found in the bone marrow and develop into blood cells.
MSCs are an example of “adult” stem cells, they can produce more than one type of specialised cell in the body, but not all types, unlike embryonic (called pluripotent) stem cells. MSCs can generate various particular cells found in structural and connective tissues. For example, they can differentiate, or specialise, into cartilage cells (chondrocytes), bone cells (osteoblasts), and fat cells (adipocytes). These specialized cells each have their characteristic forms of structures and functions, and each belongs to a particular tissue.
Preliminary research found that MSCs can also differentiate into many types of cells that are not part of structural tissue, such as nerve cells, heart muscle cells, liver cells, and endothelial cells, which form the inner layer of blood vessels. In some cases, it appears that MSCs can merge with existing differentiated cells although MSCs were originally found in the bone marrow, they are now known to exist in many other tissues, such as blood, fat, and muscle.
It is easy to obtain a mixture of different types of adult marrow mesenchymal cells but isolating the tiny fraction of cells that represent MSCs is complex. Some of the cells in this mixture may be able to form bone or fatty tissue for true, but not yet have all of the properties of MSCs. The challenge is to identify and select cells that can both self-renew and differentiate into three cell types; bone, cartilage, and fat. The ability of MSCs to differentiate into bone cells – called osteoblasts – has led to their use in clinical trials focusing on potential bone repair methods. These studies focus on possible treatments for localised skeletal defects.
Other research focuses on the use of MSCs to repair cartilage. Cartilage covers the ends of bones and allows it to slide over one another without friction. It can be damaged by a sudden injury like a fall, or after many years of progressive wear and tear. Degradation of cartilage is these ways leads to osteoarthritis. Cartilage cannot repair itself well after injury and the currenttreatment available for severe damage is surgery, which consist of replacing the injured joint with an artificial one.
Since MSCs can differentiate into cartilage cells called chondrocytes, scientists are working on injectable doses of MSCs directly into the joints of patients to reduce pain and inflammation, as well as recruit cells of patient’s innate repair mechanisms to repair and maintain cartilage.
In addition, some studies suggest that MSCs may promote the formation of new blood vessels in a process called neovascularization. MSCs do not directly create new blood vessel cells, but they can aid neovascularization in several ways. For example, they can release proteins that mimic the growth of cells called endothelial precursors – cells that grow to form the inner layer of blood vessels. Studies such as these have led researchers to hope that MSCs may provide a way to repair damage to blood vessels associated with heart attacks or diseases, such as critical lower extremity ischemia.
Finally, researchers have shown that MSCs can avoid detection by the immune system (immuno-evasive) and can be transplanted from one patient to another without the risk of rejection. It has also been suggested that MSCs may be able to slow the growth and activation immune cells in the body, which reduces inflammation and therefore create a favorable environment for new cells to multiply.
All of these research projects are an inexhaustible source of hope for the chronic and recurring diseases that our society increasingly faces. This is why MedXCell has been working for several years on numerous clinical trials to find affordable solutions for all.
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