The meaning, the sense and the significance: translating the science of mesenchymal stem cells into medicine


Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are the focus of intensive efforts worldwide directed not only at elucidating their nature and unique properties but also developing cell-based therapies for a diverse range of diseases. More than three decades have passed since the original formulation of the concept, revolutionary at the time, that multiple connective tissues could emanate from a common progenitor or stem cell retained in the postnatal bone marrow. Despite the many important advances made since that time, substantial ambiguities still plague the field regarding the nature, identity, function, mode of isolation and experimental handling of MSCs. These uncertainties have a major impact on their envisioned therapeutic use.

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Figure 1: The whereabouts of MSCs.
Figure 2: How MSCs make it to bone marrow.
Figure 3: The Yin and Yang of MSCs.


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Note that the authors are listed in alphabetical order in the author list. This work was supported in part by grants from Telethon (GGP09227), Fondazione Roma, Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca (MIUR), Ministero della Salute, EU (Angioscaff) and Fondazione Institut Pasteur-Cenci Bolognetti (to P.B.), the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) (R01 DK056638, HL69438, HL097819, HL097700, HL116340 to P.S.F.), NIH DK57501 (to X.C.), the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), NIH (DE019412 and DE016513 to C.-Y.W.), NIH R01DE018248 and R01EB009663 to J.J.M. and the Division of Intramural Research, NIDCR of the Intramural Research Program, NIH, Department of Health and Human Services (to P.G.R.).

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Correspondence to Paolo Bianco.

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Competing interests

P.J.S. is an employee of Mesoblast Ltd., a company engaged in clinical trials using mesenchymal precursor cells.

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Bianco, P., Cao, X., Frenette, P. et al. The meaning, the sense and the significance: translating the science of mesenchymal stem cells into medicine. Nat Med 19, 35–42 (2013) doi:10.1038/nm.3028

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