Mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapy is poised to establish a new clinical paradigm; however, recent trials have produced mixed results. Although MSC were originally considered to treat connective tissue defects, preclinical studies revealed potent immunomodulatory properties that prompted the use of MSC to treat numerous inflammatory conditions. Unfortunately, although clinical trials have met safety endpoints, efficacy has not been demonstrated. We believe the challenge to demonstrate efficacy can be attributed in part to an incomplete understanding of the fate of MSC following infusion. Here, we highlight the clinical status of MSC therapy and discuss the importance of cell-tracking techniques, which have advanced our understanding of the fate and function of systemically infused MSC and might improve clinical application.
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