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Methods Mol Biol. 2013;1048:309-21. doi: 10.1007/978-1-62703-556-9_20.

Epigenetic biomarker to determine replicative senescence of cultured cells.

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Stem Cell Biology and Cellular Engineering, Helmholtz-Institute for Biomedical Engineering; RWTH Aachen University Medical School, Aachen, Germany.


Somatic cells change continuously during culture expansion-long-term culture evokes increasing cell size, declining differentiation potential, and ultimate cell cycle arrest upon senescence. These changes are of particular relevance for cellular therapy which necessitates standardized products and reliable quality control. Recently, replicative senescence has been shown to be associated with highly reproducible epigenetic modifications. Here, we describe a simple method to track the state of senescence in mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) or fibroblasts by monitoring continuous DNA methylation (DNAm) changes at specific sites in the genome. Six CpG sites have been identified which reveal either linear hypermethylation or hypomethylation with respect to the number of cumulative population doublings (cPDs). Conversely, the DNAm level at these CpG sites can be analyzed-for example, by pyrosequencing of bisulfite-converted DNA-and then used for linear regression models to predict cPDs. Our method provides an epigenetic biomarker to determine the state of senescence in cell preparations.

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