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Acta Biomater. 2019 Nov;99:247-257. doi: 10.1016/j.actbio.2019.09.022. Epub 2019 Sep 17.

Characterizing the impact of 2D and 3D culture conditions on the therapeutic effects of human mesenchymal stem cell secretome on corneal wound healing in vitro and ex vivo.

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Ophthalmology, Byers Eye Institute at Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, CA, United States.
Ophthalmology, Byers Eye Institute at Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, CA, United States; Chemical and Biological Engineering, Gachon University, Seongnam-si, Gyeonggi-do, Republic of Korea.
Ophthalmology, Byers Eye Institute at Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, CA, United States; Ophthalmology & Visual Science, Yeouido St. Mary's Hospital, College of Medicine, The Catholic University of Korea, Seoul, Republic of Korea.
Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, Illinois, United States.
Ophthalmology, Byers Eye Institute at Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, CA, United States; Chemical Engineering, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, United States; VA Palo Alto HealthCare System, Palo Alto, California, United States. Electronic address:


The therapeutic effects of secreted factors (secretome) produced by bone marrow-derived human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) were evaluated as a function of their growth in 2D culture conditions and on 3D electrospun fiber scaffolds. Electrospun fiber scaffolds composed of polycaprolactone and gelatin were fabricated to provide a 3D microenvironment for MSCs, and their mechanical properties were optimized to be similar to corneal tissue. The secretome produced by the MSCs cultured on 3D fiber matrices versus 2D culture dishes were analyzed using a Luminex immunoassay, and the secretome of MSCs cultured on the 3D versus 2D substrates showed substantial compositional differences. Concentrations of factors such as HGF and ICAM-1 were increased over 5 times in 3D cultures compared to 2D cultures. In vitro proliferation and scratch-based wound healing assays were performed to compare the effects of the secretome on corneal fibroblast cells (CFCs) when delivered synchronously from co-cultured MSCs through a trans-well co-culture system versus asynchronously after harvesting the factors separately and adding them to the media. Cell viability of CFCs was sustained for 6 days when co-cultured with MSCs seeded on the fibers but decreased with time under other conditions. Scratch assays showed 95% closure at 48 h when CFCs were co-cultured with MSCs seeded on fibers, while the control group only exhibited 50% closure at 48 h. Electrospun fibers seeded with MSCs were then applied to a rabbit corneal organ culture system, and MSCs seeded on fibers promoted faster epithelialization and less scarring. Corneas were fixed and stained for alpha smooth muscle actin (α-SMA), and then analyzed by confocal microscopy. Immunostaining showed that expression of α-SMA was lower in corneas treated with MSCs seeded on fibers, suggesting suppression of myofibroblastic transformation. MSCs cultured on electrospun fibers facilitate wound healing in CFCs and on explanted corneas through differential secretome profiles compared to MSCs cultured on 2D substrates. Future work is merited to further understand the nature and basis of these differences and their effects in animal models. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: Previous studies have shown that the secretome of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) is promotes corneal wound healing by facilitating improved wound closure rates and reduction of scarring and neovascularization. The present research is significant because it provides evidence for the modulation of the secretome as a function of the MSC culture environment. This leads to differential expression of therapeutic factors secreted, which can impact corneal epithelial and stromal healing after severe injury. In addition, this article shows that co-continuous delivery of the MSC secretome improves cell migration and proliferation over aliquoted delivery, and that MSCs grown on three-dimensional electrospun fiber constructs may provide a favorable microenvironment for cultured MSCs and as a carrier to deliver their secreted factors to the ocular surface.


Corneal wound healing; Mesenchymal stem cells; Regeneration; Regenerative medicine

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