Local irradiation not only induces homing of human mesenchymal stem cells at exposed sites but promotes their widespread engraftment to multiple organs: a study of their quantitative distribution after irradiation damage

Stem Cells. 2006 Apr;24(4):1020-9. doi: 10.1634/stemcells.2005-0260. Epub 2005 Dec 8.


Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been shown to migrate to various tissues. There is little information on the fate and potential therapeutic efficacy of the reinfusion of MSCs following total body irradiation (TBI). We addressed this question using human MSC (hMSCs) infused to nonobese diabetic/ severe combined immunodeficient (NOD/SCID) mice submitted to TBI. Further, we tested the impact of additional local irradiation (ALI) superimposed to TBI, as a model of accidental irradiation. NOD/SCID mice were transplanted with hM-SCs. Group 1 was not irradiated before receiving hMSC infusion. Group 2 received only TBI at a dose of 3.5 Gy, group 3 received local irradiation to the abdomen at a dose of 4.5 Gy in addition to TBI, and group 4 received local irradiation to the leg at 26.5 Gy in addition to TBI. Fifteen days after irradiation, quantitative and spatial distribution of the hMSCs were studied. Histological analysis of mouse tissues confirmed the presence of radio-induced lesions in the irradiated fields. Following their infusion into nonirradiated animals, hMSCs homed at a very low level to various tissues (lung, bone marrow, and muscles) and no significant engraftment was found in other organs. TBI induced an increase of engraftment levels of hMSCs in the brain, heart, bone marrow, and muscles. Abdominal irradiation (AI) as compared with leg irradiation (LI) increased hMSC engraftment in the exposed area (the gut, liver, and spleen). Hind LI as compared with AI increased hMSC engraftment in the exposed area (skin, quadriceps, and muscles). An increase of hMSC engraftment in organs outside the fields of the ALI was also observed. Conversely, following LI, hMSC engraftment was increased in the brain as compared with AI. This study shows that engraftment of hMSCs in NOD/ SCID mice with significantly increased in response to tissue injuries following TBI with or without ALI. ALI induced an increase of the level of engraftment at sites outside the local irradiation field, thus suggesting a distant (abscopal) effect of radiation damage. This work supports the use of MSCs to repair damaged normal tissues following accidental irradiation and possibly in patients submitted to radiotherapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Movement / radiation effects
  • Gene Expression
  • Globins / genetics
  • Graft Survival / genetics
  • Graft Survival / radiation effects
  • Humans
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / physiology
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / radiation effects*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Mice, SCID
  • Organ Specificity
  • Radiation Injuries, Experimental / pathology
  • Radiation Injuries, Experimental / therapy
  • Transplantation, Heterologous
  • Whole-Body Irradiation
  • beta 2-Microglobulin / metabolism


  • beta 2-Microglobulin
  • Globins