Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are bone marrow populating cells, different from hematopoietic stem cells, which possess an extensive proliferative potential and ability to differentiate into various cell types, including: osteocytes, adipocytes, chondrocytes, myocytes, cardiomyocytes and neurons.
MSCs play a key role in the maintenance of bone marrow homeostasis and regulate the maturation of both hematopoietic and non-hematopoietic cells.
The cells are characterized by the expression of numerous surface antigens, but none of them appears to be exclusively expressed on MSCs.
Apart from bone marrow, MSCs are located in other tissues, like: adipose tissue, peripheral blood, cord blood, liver and fetal tissues.
MSCs have been shown to be powerful tools in gene therapies, and can be effectively transduced with viral vectors containing a therapeutic gene, as well as with cDNA for specific proteins, expression of which is desired in a patient.
Due to such characteristics, the number of clinical trials based on the use of MSCs increase.
These cells have been successfully employed in graft versus host disease (GvHD) treatment, heart regeneration after infarct, cartilage and bone repair, skin wounds healing, neuronal regeneration and many others.
Of special importance is their use in the treatment of osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), which appeared to be the only reasonable therapeutic strategy.
MSCs seem to represent a future powerful tool in regenerative medicine, therefore they are particularly important in medical research.