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World J Stem Cells. 2016 Mar 26;8(3):73-87. doi: 10.4252/wjsc.v8.i3.73.

Homing and migration of mesenchymal stromal cells: How to improve the efficacy of cell therapy?

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Ann De Becker, Ivan Van Riet, Department Clinical Hematology-Stem Cell Laboratory, Universitair Ziekenhuis Brussel, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), 1090 Jette, Belgium.


Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) are currently being investigated for use in a wide variety of clinical applications. For most of these applications, systemic delivery of the cells is preferred. However, this requires the homing and migration of MSCs to a target tissue. Although MSC homing has been described, this process does not appear to be highly efficacious because only a few cells reach the target tissue and remain there after systemic administration. This has been ascribed to low expression levels of homing molecules, the loss of expression of such molecules during expansion, and the heterogeneity of MSCs in cultures and MSC culture protocols. To overcome these limitations, different methods to improve the homing capacity of MSCs have been examined. Here, we review the current understanding of MSC homing, with a particular focus on homing to bone marrow. In addition, we summarize the strategies that have been developed to improve this process. A better understanding of MSC biology, MSC migration and homing mechanisms will allow us to prepare MSCs with optimal homing capacities. The efficacy of therapeutic applications is dependent on efficient delivery of the cells and can, therefore, only benefit from better insights into the homing mechanisms.


Bone marrow; Extravasation; Homing; Homing receptors; Mesenchymal stromal cells

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