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Abstract

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are considered as potential agents for reconstructive and gene-targeting therapies since they differentiate into various cell-lineages, exhibit an extended survival once injected into a host, and can easily be transfected with engineered DNA. MSC are essentially isolated from hematopoietic bone marrow (BM), a process that is rather invasive and may raise ethical concerns. In an attempt to find an alternative source, we evaluated whether non-hematopoietic (nh)BM recovered from femoral heads of patients undergoing hip arthroplasty contained MSC. Ex vivo, 99% of nhBM cells were CD45+ leukocytes. After culture, leukocytes were replaced by a homogenous layer of adherent CD45 CD14 CD34 CD11b CD90+ HLA-ABC+ cells. Culture doubling time (mean = 4 days, range 1.6–6.7 days) was not correlated with patient age (27–81 years, n = 16). Amplified cultures supported long-term hematopoiesis, and could be differentiated in vitro into adipocytes and chondrocytes. Moreover, a small fraction of nhBM cells spontaneously expressed MyoD1 and formed myotubes, suggesting that myogenic differentiation also occurred. nhBM contained clonogenic cells whose frequency (1/13,000), doubling time (2.1 days), and maximal amplification (up to 106-fold) were not age-related. All 14 clones analyzed (from five patients, ages 27–78 years) differentiated into at least one mesenchymal lineage, and 66% were bipotential (n = 8/12), or tripotential (n = 2/3). In conclusion, nhBM contains pluripotential mesenchymal progenitors which are similar to hematopoietic BM-derived MSC, and whose biological functions are not altered by aging. Furthermore, if MSC-based therapies hold their promises, nhBM may become the source of choice for responding to the increasing demand for MSC. J. Cell. Physiol. 198: 110–118, 2004. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.