• horse;
  • stem cells;
  • multipotent stromal cells;
  • Percoll;
  • Ficoll;
  • density gradient separation


Reason for performing the study: There is a need to assess and standardise equine bone marrow (BM) mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) isolation protocols in order to permit valid comparisons between therapeutic trials at different sites.

Objective: To compare 3 protocols of equine BM MSC isolation: adherence to a plastic culture dish (Classic) and 2 gradient density separation protocols (Percoll and Ficoll).

Materials and methods: BM aspirates were harvested from the sternum of 6 mares and MSCs isolated by all 3 protocols. The cell viability after isolation, MSC yield, number of MSCs attained after 14 days of culture and the functional characteristics (self-renewal (CFU) and multilineage differentiation capacity) were determined for all 3 protocols.

Results: The mean ± s.d. MSC yield from the Percoll protocol was significantly higher (6.8 ± 3.8%) than the Classic protocol (1.3 ± 0.7%). The numbers of MSCs recovered after 14 days culture per 10 ml BM sample were 24.0 ± 12.1, 14.6 ± 9.5 and 4.1 ± 2.5 × 106 for the Percoll, Ficoll and Classic protocols, respectively, significantly higher for the Percoll compared with the Classic protocol. Importantly, no significant difference in cell viability or in osteogenic or chondrogenic differentiation was identified between the protocols. At Passage 0, cells retrieved with the Ficoll protocol had lower self-renewal capacity when compared with the Classic protocol but there was no significant difference between protocols at Passage 1. There were no significant differences between the 3 protocols for the global frequencies of CFUs at Passage 0 or 1.

Conclusions and clinical relevance: These data suggest that the Percoll gradient density separation protocol was the best in terms of MSC yield and self-renewal potential of the MSCs retrieved and that MSCs retrieved with the Ficoll protocol had the lowest self-renewal but only at passage 0. Then, the 3 protocols were equivalent. However, the Percoll protocol should be considered for equine MSC isolation to minimise culture time.