Induction of neural-like differentiation in human mesenchymal stem cells derived from bone marrow, fat, spleen and thymus

Bone. 2007 Feb;40(2):382-90. doi: 10.1016/j.bone.2006.09.006. Epub 2006 Oct 16.


Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) from bone marrow (BM) and sub-cutaneous fat are known to differentiate into neural cells under appropriate stimuli. We describe here the neural-like differentiation of human MSCs obtained from spleen and thymus, induced either with chemical factors or with co-culture with human Schwann cells (Sc). Under the effect of neural differentiation medium, most MSCs from BM, fat, spleen and thymus acquired morphological changes suggestive of cells of astrocytic/neuronal and oligodendroglial lineages with general up-regulation of neural molecules not correlated with morphological changes. The process was transient and reversible, as MSCs recovered basal morphology and phenotype, as well as their multilineage differentiation potential. Thus, we hypothesized that chemical factors may prime MSCs for neural differentiation, by inducing initial and poorly specific changes. By contrast, co-cultures of MSCs of different origin with Sc induced long-lasting and Sc differentiation, i.e., the expression of Sc myelin proteins for up to 12 days. Our results show that a MSC reservoir is present in tissues other than BM and fat, and that MSCs of different origin have similar neural differentiation potential. This evidence provides new insights into BM-like tissue plasticity and may have important implications for future therapeutic interventions in chronic neuropathies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / cytology*
  • Adipocytes / physiology
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology*
  • Bone Marrow Cells / physiology
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Culture Media
  • Humans
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / physiology
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Organ Specificity
  • Schwann Cells / cytology
  • Spleen / cytology*
  • Thymus Gland / cytology*


  • Culture Media