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Stem Cells. 2007 Jul;25(7):1603-9. Epub 2007 Mar 29.

Concise review: no breakthroughs for human mesenchymal and embryonic stem cell culture: conditioned medium, feeder layer, or feeder-free; medium with fetal calf serum, human serum, or enriched plasma; serum-free, serum replacement nonconditioned medium, or ad hoc formula? All that glitters is not gold!

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  • 1Institute of Histology and Laboratory Analysis, Faculty of Sciences and Technologies, University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Via O. Ubaldini 7, 61029 Urbino (PU), Italy.


The choice of an optimal strategy of stem cell culture is at the moment an impossible task, and the elaboration of a culture medium adapted to the production of embryonic and adult mesenchymal stem cells for the clinical application of cell therapy remains a crucial matter. To make an informed choice, it is crucial to not underestimate the theoretical health risk of using xenogenic compounds, to limit the immunological reactions once stem cells are transplanted, to not overestimate the controversial results obtained with human serum, plasma, and blood derivatives, as well as to carefully examine the pros and cons of serum-free and ad hoc formulation strategies; besides that, to also maintain multipotentiality, self-renewal, and transplantability. The extent to which we are able to achieve effective cell therapies will depend on assimilating a rapidly developing base of scientific knowledge with the practical considerations of design, delivery, and host response. Although clinical studies have already started, many questions remain unsolved, and concomitantly even more evidence on suitable and safe off-the-shelf products (mainly xeno-free) for embryonic and mesenchymal stem cells is cropping up, even though there should be no rush to enter the clinical stage while the underlying basic research is still not so solid; this solely will lead to high-quality translational research, without making blunders stemming from the assumption that all that glitters is not gold. Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest is found at the end of this article.

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