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Exp Gerontol. 2008 Nov;43(11):1018-23. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2008.07.004. Epub 2008 Jul 24.

Controversial issue: is it safe to employ mesenchymal stem cells in cell-based therapies?

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Institute for Biomedical Aging Research, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Innsbruck, Austria.


The prospective clinical use of multipotent mesenchymal stromal stem cells (MSC) holds enormous promise for the treatment of a large number of degenerative and age-related diseases. However, the challenges and risks for cell-based therapies are multifaceted. The risks for patients receiving stem cells, which have been expanded in vitro in the presence of xenogenic compounds, can hardly be anticipated and methods for the culture and manipulation of "safe" MSC ex vivo are being investigated. During in vitro expansion, stem cells experience a long replicative history and are thus subject to damage from intracellular and extracellular influences. While murine MSC are prone to cellular transformation in culture, human MSC do not transform. One reason for this striking difference is that during long-term culture, human MSC finally become replicatively senescent. In consequence, this greatly restricts their proliferation and differentiation efficiency. It however also limits the yield of sufficient numbers of cells needed for therapy. Another issue is to eliminate contamination of expanding cells with serum-bound pathogenic agents in order to reduce the risks for infection. A recent technical advancement, which applies human serum platelet lysates as an alternative source for growth factors and essential supplements, allows the unimpaired proliferation of MSC in the absence of animal sera. Here, we present an update regarding cellular senescence of MSC and recent insights concerning potential risks associated with their clinical use.

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