Compared with bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells, adipose tissue-derived stromal cells (ADSC) do have an equal potential to differentiate into cells and tissues of mesodermal origin, such as adipocytes, cartilage, bone, and skeletal muscle. However, the easy and repeatable access to subcutaneous adipose tissue and the simple isolation procedures provide a clear advantage. Since extensive reviews focusing exclusively on ADSC are rare, it is the aim of this review to describe the preparation and isolation procedures for ADSC, to summarize the molecular characterization of ADSC, to describe the differentiation capacity of ADSC, and to discuss the mechanisms and future role of ADSC in cell therapy and tissue engineering. An initial effort has also been made to differentiate ADSC into hepatocytes, endocrine pancreatic cells, neurons, cardiomyocytes, hepatocytes, and endothelial/vascular cells. Whereas the lineage-specific differentiation into cells of mesodermal origin is well understood on a molecular basis, the molecular key events and transcription factors that initially allocate the ADSC to a lineage-specific differentiation are almost completely unknown. Decoding these molecular mechanisms is a prerequisite for developing novel cell therapies.
Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest is found at the end of this article.