Langenbeck's Archives of Surgery

, Volume 396, Issue 4, pp 489–497 | Cite as

Mesenchymal stem cells and progenitor cells in connective tissue engineering and regenerative medicine: is there a future for transplantation?

  • Andres Hilfiker
  • Cornelia Kasper
  • Ralf Hass
  • Axel Haverich
Review Article



Transplantation surgery suffers from a shortage of donor organs worldwide. Cell injection and tissue engineering (TE), thus emerge as alternative therapy options. The purpose of this article is to review the progress of TE technology, focusing on mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) as a cell source for artificial functional tissue.


MSC from many different sources can be minimally invasively harvested: peripheral blood, fat tissue, bone marrow, amniotic fluid, cord blood. In comparison to embryonic stem cells (ESC), there are no ethical concerns; MSC can be extracted from autologous or allogenic tissue and cause an immune modulatory effect by suppressing the graft-versus-host reaction (GvHD). Furthermore, MSC do not develop into teratomas when transplanted, a consequence observed with ESC and iPS cells.


MSC as multipotent cells are capable of differentiating into mesodermal and non-mesodermal lineages. However, further studies must be performed to elucidate the differentiation capacity of MSC from different sources, and to understand the involved pathways and processes. Already, MSC have been successfully applied in clinical trials, e.g., to heal large bone defects, cartilage lesions, spinal cord injuries, cardiovascular diseases, hematological pathologies, osteogenesis imperfecta, and GvHD. A detailed understanding of the behavior and homing of MSC is desirable to enlarge the clinical application spectrum of MSC towards the in vitro generation of functional tissue for implantation, for example, resilient cartilage, contractile myocardial replacement tissue, and bioartificial heart valves.


Tissue engineering MSC Connective tissue Transplantation 


Conflicts of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andres Hilfiker
    • 1
  • Cornelia Kasper
    • 2
  • Ralf Hass
    • 3
  • Axel Haverich
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Leibniz Research Laboratories for Biotechnology and Artificial Organs (LEBAO)Hannover Medical SchoolHannoverGermany
  2. 2.Institut für Technische ChemieLeibniz Universität HannoverHannoverGermany
  3. 3.Laboratory of Biochemistry and Tumor Biology, Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyHannover Medical SchoolHannoverGermany
  4. 4.Department of Cardiac, Thoracic, Transplantation and Vascular SurgeryHannover Medical SchoolHannoverGermany

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