• Mesenchymal stem cells;
  • Stromal cells;
  • Bone marrow;
  • Cell therapy;
  • Cell transplantation;
  • Cell culture


Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are increasingly being used in tissue engineering and cell-based therapies in all fields ranging from orthopedic to cardiovascular medicine. Despite years of research and numerous clinical trials, MSC therapies are still very much in development and not considered mainstream treatments. The majority of approaches rely on an in vitro cell expansion phase in monolayer to produce large cell numbers prior to implantation. It is clear from the literature that this in vitro expansion phase causes dramatic changes in MSC phenotype which has very significant implications for the development of effective therapies. Previous reviews have sought to better characterize these cells in their native and in vitro environments, described known stem cell interactions within the bone marrow, and discussed the use of innovative culture systems aiming to model the bone marrow stem cell niche. The purpose of this review is to provide an update on our knowledge of MSCs in their native environment, focusing on bone marrow-derived MSCs. We provide a detailed description of the differences between naive cells and those that have been cultured in vitro and examine the effect of isolation and culture parameters on these phenotypic changes. We explore the concept of “one step” MSC therapy and discuss the potential cellular and clinical benefits. Finally, we describe recent work attempting to model the MSC bone marrow niche, with focus on both basic research and clinical applications and consider the challenges associated with these new generation culture systems. Stem Cells 2014;32:1713–1723