, Volume 59, Issue 5, pp 369-378
Date: 26 Jul 2011

Bone Marrow Mesenchymal Cells: How Do They Contribute to Tissue Repair and Are They Really Stem Cells?

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Adult stem cells typically generate the cell types of the tissue in which they reside, and thus the range of their differentiation is considered limited. Bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are different from other somatic stem cells in that they differentiate not only into the same mesodermal-lineage such as bone, cartilage, and adipocytes but also into other lineages of ectodermal and endodermal cells. Thus, MSCs are a unique type of adult stem cells. In addition, MSCs home to damaged sites, differentiate into cells specific to the tissue and contribute to tissue repair. Therefore, application of MSCs in the treatment of various diseases, including liver dysfunction, myocardial infarction, and central nervous system repair, has been initiated. Because MSCs are generally harvested as adherent cells from bone marrow aspirates, however, they comprise heterogeneous cell populations and their wide-ranging differentiation ability and repair functions are not yet clear. Recent evidence suggests that a very small subpopulation of cells that assume a repair function with the ability to differentiate into trilineage cells resides among human MSCs and effective utilization of such cells is expected to improve the repair effect of MSCs. This review summarizes recent advances in the clarification of MSC properties and discusses future perspectives.