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Eur Cell Mater. 2019 Feb 11;37:88-112. doi: 10.22203/eCM.v037a07.

Approaches to mimic the complexity of the skeletal mesenchymal stem/stromal cell niche in vitro.

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IZKF Group Tissue Regeneration in Musculoskeletal Diseases, Orthopedic Center for Musculoskeletal Research, Würzburg,


Mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (MSCs) are an essential element of most modern tissue engineering and regenerative medicine approaches due to their multipotency and immunoregulatory functions. Despite the prospective value of MSCs for the clinics, the stem cells community is questioning their developmental origin, in vivo localization, identification, and regenerative potential after several years of far-reaching research in the field. Although several major progresses have been made in mimicking the complexity of the MSC niche in vitro, there is need for comprehensive studies of fundamental mechanisms triggered by microenvironmental cues before moving to regenerative medicine cell therapy applications. The present comprehensive review extensively discusses the microenvironmental cues that influence MSC phenotype and function in health and disease - including cellular, chemical and physical interactions. The most recent and relevant illustrative examples of novel bioengineering approaches to mimic biological, chemical, and mechanical microenvironmental signals present in the native MSC niche are summarized, with special emphasis on the forefront techniques to achieve bio-chemical complexity and dynamic cultures. In particular, the skeletal MSC niche and applications focusing on the bone regenerative potential of MSC are addressed. The aim of the review was to recognize the limitations of the current MSC niche in vitro models and to identify potential opportunities to fill the bridge between fundamental science and clinical application of MSCs.


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