Mesenchymal Stem Cells: Cell Biology and Potential Use in Therapy


Author for correspondence: Moustapha Kassem, Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, University Hospital of Odense, DK-5000 Odense C, Denmark (fax +45 6591 9653, e-mail or


Abstract: Mesenchymal stem cells are clonogenic, non-haematopoietic stem cells present in the bone marrow and are able to differentiate into multiple mesoderm-type cell lineages e.g. osteoblasts, chondrocytes, endothelial-cells and also non-mesoderm-type lineages e.g. neuronal-like cells. Several methods are currently available for isolation of the mesenchymal stem cells based on their physical and immunological characteristics. Because of the ease of their isolation and their extensive differentiation potential, mesenchymal stem cells are among the first stem cell types to be introduced in the clinic. Recent studies have demonstrated that the life span of mesenchymal stem cells in vitro can be extended by increasing the levels of telomerase expression in the cells and thus allowing culture of large number of cells needed for therapy. In addition, it has been shown that it is possible to culture the cells in xeno-free environment without affecting their growth or differentiation potential. Finally, the mesenchymal stem cells seems to be hypoimmunogenic and thus allogenic mesenchymal stem cells transplantation is possible. It is envisaged that mesenchymal stem cells can be used in systemic transplantation for generalized diseases, local implantation for local tissue defects, as a vehicle for genes in gene therapy protocols or to generate transplantable tissues and organs in tissue engineering protocols. The results of these initial trials are very encouraging and several clinical trials are under way to study the efficacy and long-term safety of therapeutics based on mesenchymal stem cells.