Stem cells are characterized by the ability to auto-renew through cell division and can also differentiate to different cell lineages. They are classified into three types:
- Embryonic stem cells (ESC).
- Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC).
- Adult stem cells. Within the adult stem cells, we find mesenchymal stem cells (MSC).
Since the embryonic stem cells were isolated for the first time, the scientific community celebrated the opening of endless possibilities. They wanted to boost its use in the discovery of new drugs, immunotherapy and regenerative medicine. However, the ethical implications of obtaining and using these cells made their use very restricted.
What are exactly mesenchymal stem cells?
They are multipotent adult stem cells that can differentiate to various cell types while maintaining a high capacity for self-renewal. They owe their mesenchymal name to their ability to differentiate into other cell types from mesoderm. Although they were first isolated in the bone marrow, scientists currently obtain them from many tissues including adipose tissue, umbilical cord, lungs or tendons.
These cells have the particularity of being able to differentiate in vitro into adipocytes, chondrocytes, osteoblasts, neurons, hepatocytes and pancreatic cells.
Which are the advantages?
Scientists can easily isolate them and also maintain their ability to expand for long periods of time without losing their characteristics.
MSC have immunomodulatory properties. They secrete certain substances that are capable of modifying the host’s immune microenvironment.
All these properties make mesenchymal stem cells different from the others. It is useful in both cell therapy and in the treatment of chronic diseases (neurodegenerative, autoimmune and cardiovascular).
How many types are there?
Recent studies have shown that the ability of differentiation of these cells to other types may vary depending on their origin. We can mention the following:
- Human bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (hMSC-BM). In vitro, they can differentiate into adipocytes, chondrocytes, osteoblasts and neuronal cells.
- Human mesenchymal stem cells of the umbilical cord matrix (hMSC-UC). In vitro, they can differentiate to adipocytes, chondrocytes and osteoblasts.
- Human mesenchymal stem cells of adipose tissue (hMSC-AT). In vitro, they can differentiate to adipocytes, chondrocytes and osteoblasts.
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