, Volume 349, Issue 2, pp 505-515
Date: 25 May 2012

Defining essential stem cell characteristics in adipose-derived stromal cells extracted from distinct anatomical sites

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The discovery of adipose-derived stromal cells (ASCs) has created many opportunities for the development of patient-specific cell-based replacement therapies. We have isolated multiple cell strains of ASCs from various anatomical sites (abdomen, arms/legs, breast, buttocks), indicating widespread distribution of ASCs throughout the body. Unfortunately, there exists a general lack of agreement in the literature as to their “stem cell” characteristics. We find that telomerase activity and expression of its catalytic subunit in ASCs are both below the levels of detection, independent of age and culturing conditions. ASCs also undergo telomere attrition and eventually senesce, while maintaining a stable karyotype without the development of spontaneous tumor-associated abnormalities. Using a set of cell surface markers that have been promoted to identify ASCs, we find that they failed to distinguish ASCs from normal fibroblasts, as both are positive for CD29, CD73 and CD105 and negative for CD14, CD31 and CD45. All of the ASC isolates are multipotent, capable of differentiating into osteocytes, chondrocytes and adipocytes, while fibroblasts show no differentiation potential. Our ASC strains also show elevated expression of genes associated with pluripotent cells, Oct-4, SOX2 and NANOG, when compared to fibroblasts and bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (BM-MSCs), although the levels were lower than induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS). Together, our data suggest that, while the cell surface profile of ASCs does not distinguish them from normal fibroblasts, their differentiation capacity and the expression of genes closely linked to pluripotency clearly define ASCs as multipotent stem cells, regardless of tissue isolation location.