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Ultrastruct Pathol. 2007 Jan-Feb;31(1):23-31.

Ultrastructural characteristics of human mesenchymal stromal (stem) cells derived from bone marrow and term placenta.

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Section of Clinical Pathology, Department of Experimental Pathology, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.


Human mesenchymal stromal (stem) cells (hMSCs) isolated from adult bone marrow (BM-hMSCs) as well as amnion (AM-hMSCs) and chorion (CM-hMSCs) term placenta leaves were studied by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to investigate their ultrastructural basic phenotype. At flow cytometry, the isolated cells showed a homogeneous expression of markers commonly used to identify hMSCs, i.e., CD105, CD44, CD90, CD166, HLA-ABC positivities, and CD45, AC133, and HLA-DR negativities. However, TEM revealed subtle yet significant differences. BM-hMSCs had mesenchymal features with dilated cisternae of rough endoplasmic reticulum (rER) and peripheral collections of multiloculated clear blisters; this latter finding mostly representing complex foldings of the plasma membrane could be revelatory of the in situ cell arrangement in the niche microenvironment. Unlike BM-hMSCs, CM-hMSCs were more primitive and metabolically quiescent, their major features being the presence of rER stacks and large peripheral collections of unbound glycogen. AM-hMSCs showed a hybrid epithelial-mesenchymal ultrastructural phenotype; epithelial characters included non-intestinal-type surface microvilli, intracytoplasmic lumina lined with microvilli, and intercellular junctions; mesenchymal features included rER profiles, lipid droplets, and well-developed foci of contractile filaments with dense bodies. These features are consistent with the view that AM-hMSCs have a pluripotent potential. In conclusion, this study documents that ultrastructural differences exist among phenotypically similar hMSCs derived from human bone marrow and term placenta leaves; such differences could be revelatory of the hMSCs in vitro differentiation potential and may provide useful clues to attempt their in situ identification.

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