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Keywords:

  • mesenchymal stem cells;
  • perivascular cells;
  • pericytes; flow cytometry

Mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (MSCs) are adult multipotent progenitors of great promise for cell therapy. MSCs can mediate tissue regeneration, immunomodulation, and hematopoiesis support. Despite the unique properties of MSCs and their broad range of potential clinical applications, the very nature of these cells has been uncertain. Furthermore, MSCs are heterogeneous and only defined subpopulations of these are endowed with the particular abilities to sustain hematopoietic stem cells, regulate immune responses, or differentiate into mesodermal cell lineages. It is becoming evident that current criteria used to define cultured polyclonal MSCs (expression of nonspecific markers and in vitro mesodermal differentiation) are not sufficient to fully understand and exploit the potential of these cells. Here, we describe how flow cytometry has been used to reveal a perivascular origin of MSCs. As a result, the prospective purification of MSCs and specialized subsets thereof is now possible, and the clinical use of purified autologous MSCs is now within reach. © 2013 International Society for Advancement of Cytometry