• mesenchymal stem cells;
  • differentiation potential;
  • tissue engineering;
  • cell therapies;
  • horse;
  • peripheral blood;
  • multipotent cells

Abstract Tissue engineering (TE) has emerged as a promising new therapy for the treatment of damaged tissues and organs. Adult stem cells are considered as an attractive candidate cell type for cell-based TE. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) have been isolated from a variety of tissues and tested for differentiation into different cell lineages. While clinical trials still await the use of human MSC, horse tendon injuries are already being treated with autologous bone marrow-derived MSC. Given that the bone marrow is not an optimal source for MSC due to the painful and risk-containing sampling procedure, isolation of stem cells from peripheral blood would bring an attractive alternative. Adherent fibroblast-like cells have been previously isolated from equine peripheral blood. However, their responses to the differentiation conditions, established for human bone marrow MSC, were insufficient to fully confirm their multilineage potential. In this study, differentiation conditions were optimized to better evaluate the multilineage capacities of equine peripheral blood-derived fibroblast-like cells (ePB-FLC) into adipogenic, osteogenic, and chondrogenic pathways. Adipogenic differentiation using rabbit serum resulted in a high number of large-size lipid droplets three days upon induction. Cells' expression of alkaline phosphatase and calcium deposition upon osteogenic induction confirmed their osteogenic differentiation capacities. Moreover, an increase of dexamethasone concentration resulted in faster osteogenic differentiation and matrix mineralization. Finally, induction of chondrogenesis in pellet cultures resulted in an increase in cartilage-specific gene expression, namely collagen II and aggrecan, followed by protein deposition after a longer induction period. This study therefore demonstrates that ePB-FLC have the potential to differentiate into adipogenic, osteogenic, and chondrogenic mesenchymal lineages. The presence of cells with confirmed multilineage capacities in peripheral blood has important clinical implications for cell-based TE therapies in horses.