stem cell bookMesenchymal cells are multipotent adult stem cells, that are capable of differentiating into various types of cells. They can differentiate it non-hematological cells such as cartilage cells, bone cells, fat cells and specialized muscle cells like cardiac muscle cells etc. Mesenchymal stem cells, because of their special features, recently have been useful in the treatment of some diseases, particularly, the conditions that affect the skeletal and connective tissues. Research is on-going in the other ways mesenchymal stem cells can be used in treating another type of diseases.

What are mesenchymal stem cells?

Mesenchymal stem cells are multipotent stem cells that can be extracted from the bone marrow, umbilical cord, adipose tissues, amniotic fluid and in the blood. Although controversial, mesenchymal stem cells can be extracted from the peripheral blood. This was successfully done by some groups of scientists. They extracted the mesenchymal stem cells from the human peripheral blood and was able to develop them in a culture.  The word “multipotent” implies that the mesenchymal cells are capable of differentiating into other forms of the cell. Mesenchymal stem cells can differentiate into non-hematological cells like osteocytes, adipose cells, myocytes which includes the heart and smooth cells, skin and cartilage cells. Even though the mesenchymal stem cells are multipotent in nature, they are not capable of forming hematological cells. Hematological cells include red blood cells, white blood cells, and the platelets. According to some studies, it has been suggested that the mesenchymal stem cells might have the potential to be able to form some other type of cells such as liver cells and the endothelia of blood vessels, but this has been largely challenged by further experiments and studies. After further studies, some researchers noted that there might have been an error in the earlier studies.

Sources of mesenchymal stem cells

Bone marrow: The bone marrow is the most used source of mesenchymal stem cells. They can easily be isolated from the other stem cells of the bone marrow, as they do not bear the cell surface marker, CD 34

Amniotic fluid: Also, it has been proven that one out of a hundred cells obtained during amniocentesis is a mesenchymal stem cell. The fat tissue has an abundant amount of the mesenchymal stem cells

Umbilical cord

Adipose tissue

Benefits of mesenchymal stem cells therapy

Mesenchymal stem cells are multipotent stem cells, and they have the ability to self-generate and tissue repair. This has made them useful in the treatment of both immune and non-immune diseases. Below are some of the applications of mesenchymal stem cells in medicine

  1. Effective in the repair of tissues: The ability of the mesenchymal stem cells to differentiate into other forms of cells such as cartilage cells and the bone cells have made them important in the treatment of diseases associated with these body parts. The mesenchymal stem cells are believed to be responsible for the growth of tissue and tissue repair. It has also been observed that they are also responsible for the replacement of damaged tissues and cells in the musculoskeletal system. As a result of the above, mesenchymal stem cells have been useful in the management and treatment of tissue injuries and tissue degeneration. Furthermore, mesenchymal stem cells have proved effective in the treatment of teeth associated disorders, diabetes and bone injuries.
  2. Treatment of immune disorders: Mesenchymal stem cells are immune modulators. In addition to their ability to self-regenerate and repair tissues, the stem cells are important in the treatment of immune diseases. Many studies and research have been carried out, and it has been proven that the mesenchymal stem cells are effective. Experiments were done on animal models, and the mesenchymal stem cells worked efficiently. As a result of this, the stem cells have been used in the management of graft-versus-host diseases, especially in patients that underwent bone marrow transplantation. The stem cells successfully regulated the immune system of the patients to accept the transplanted stem cells. In addition, they are being used in the treatment of some autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and so on. The success of the mesenchymal stem cells can be attributed to their immunomodulatory properties.
  3. Cardiovascular disease: Although medicine has undergone some advancement over the years, it has yet failed to reduce the mortality rate of heart-related diseases. Mesenchymal stem cell therapy has been useful in the management of various cardiovascular diseases, essentially due to their regenerative ability to and immunomodulatory features. A study was carried out in an American University on eighty patients, suffering from myocardial infarction. Forty of the patients suffering from myocardial infarction were given the percutaneous coronary injection, while the remaining forty were randomly given the mesenchymal stem cells through intracoronary injections. It was observed that the patients given the mesenchymal stem cell treatment displayed a quicker and better improvement, particularly in their heart functions. The infarcted zone also regenerated after some months.

Challenges of mesenchymal stem cell therapy

Although great strides have been recorded in stem cell therapy, this field of modern medicine is still far from where it should be. This slow-paced advancement of stem cell therapy can’t be blamed on scientists, as they have been incapacitated by restrictions and laws. For example, in the United States, Texas is the only state to permit the use of stem cell therapy on patients suffering from terminal illnesses and severe chronic diseases. This is because of the ethics, that stem cell therapy seems to breach, especially in its various procedures. However, mesenchymal stem cells have recorded its successes because it doesn’t breach any ethical code. Also, the procedure causes no harm or pain to the parties involved. In addition to this, there is no long-term side effect such as tumors, or degenerations. These stem cells grow to replace dead tissue cells and also repair the injured ones. However, more research work still needs to be done on the interaction of mesenchymal stem cells and inflammation. Also, more light needs to be shined on the mechanism of action of stem cells.

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Chondrogenesis of Mesenchymal Stem Cells In Vivo. (2012). Molecular Therapy, 20, p.S289.

Jin, H., Bae, Y., Kim, M., Kwon, S., Jeon, H., Choi, S., Kim, S., Yang, Y., Oh, W. and Chang, J. (2017). Comparative Analysis of Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells from Bone Marrow, Adipose Tissue, and Umbilical Cord Blood as Sources of Cell Therapy.

Ma, O. and Chan, K. (2016). Immunomodulation by mesenchymal stem cells: Interplay between mesenchymal stem cells and regulatory lymphocytes. World Journal of Stem Cells, 8(9), p.268.