Mesenchymal stem cells – definition and assays. Part I – A brief history of the term

by Alexey Bersenev on October 10, 2010 · 6 comments

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I’d like to start the series of posts dedicated to mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) definition and assays. The controversy persists in the field, because there is no agreement about proper definition of MSC among professionals. I hope this series of posts will spark discussion and help us to clarify some issues.

Today I’d like to focus on historical aspects of defining the term of MSC.

Alexander Friedenstein in his earlier series of work in 60-70s identified new kind of clonal osteogenic progenitors in bone marrow stroma. He started to use the term: “osteogenic stem cells“. Later he was able to show that single stromal cell can give the colony- forming unit-fibroblast (CFU-F), the clonal progeny of which can give multiple skeletal tissues.
He created a concept and proposed the term of “stromal stem cells“. Today he widely credited for discovery of a new (second) type of bone marrow stem cells, different from hematopoietic.

In 1991 Arnold Caplan proposed to apply the term “mesenchymal stem cells” to the type of cells, described by Friedenstein group. This term became widely adopted, especially after the “human study” by Mark Pittinger and colleagues, published in 1999.

About 5 years ago, two collaborative groups – Paolo Bianco and Pamela Robey proposed to use the term “skeletal stem cell” for type of cells, described by Friedenstein.

In 2006 the International Society for Cellular Therapy, in order to clarify terminological controversy, proposed to use the term “multipotent mesenchymal stromal cells”.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Dan Ecklund, MD October 12, 2010 at 8:43 am

I am looking forward to more information on mesenchymal stem cells. However, I would like to point out that there are other sources of mesenchymal stem cells besides bone marrow stroma. Umbilical cord Wharton’s jelly, amnion and other reproductive tissues may be better sources of mesenchymal stem cells than bone marrow. These stem cells have been used in animals to treat Parkinson’s disease models, and can be differentiated into bone, fat, neurons, etc like the mesenchymal stem cells you write about. Please do not ignore this source of stem cells in your description, even though most workers with bone marrow cells and other adult stem cells tend to ignore them in their work and in their thinking.


Dr. Bersenev October 12, 2010 at 6:04 pm

We’re planning to indicate different sources of MSC and possible difference between them in upcoming posts of the series.


Vasiliy Bukin October 13, 2010 at 9:26 am

can you write about MSC-isolation from adipose tissue, please?


Dr. Bersenev October 17, 2010 at 6:34 am

I’d share a protocol if I’d work with this type of cells. I guess there are some published protocols that we can help you to get if you don’t have an access.
Maybe someone from our readers works with adipose tissue-derived MSC and would share the protocol.


Maarten Albersen November 5, 2010 at 2:19 am

Vasiliy, I use the following protocol resulting in 99% ADSC marker purity as early as P2:

Dubois et al. Methods Mol Biol. 2008;449:69-79.

For any questions, you can contact me. Best, Maarten


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