Mechanical Signals As a Non-Invasive Means to Influence Mesenchymal Stem Cell Fate, Promoting Bone and Suppressing the Fat Phenotype

Bonekey Osteovision. 2009 Apr 1;6(4):132-149. doi: 10.1138/20090371.


Pluripotent mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are considered ideal therapeutic targets in regenerative medicine, as they hold the capacity to differentiate into higher order connective tissues. The potential to harness MSCs for disease treatment and acceleration of repair will ultimately depend on an improved understanding of how physical and/or chemical signals regulate their activity, and the ability of exogenous stimuli to enhance MSC proliferation and define MSC fate. Recent appreciation that bone marrow osteoprogenitors are inversely proportional to adipocyte precursors suggests that their shared progenitor, the MSC, will commit to one lineage at the cost of the other. This interrelationship may contribute to the phenotype of sedentary subjects who have more fat and less bone, while conversely, to the outcome of exercise being less fat and more bone. Mechanical biasing of MSC lineage selection suggests that physical signals may influence the quantity of both fat and bone through developmental, as well as metabolic or adaptive pathways. Considered with the recent finding that low magnitude mechanical signals (LMMS) suppress the development of subcutaneous and visceral fat without elevating energy expenditure, this indicates that MSCs are ideally positioned as mechanosensitive elements central to musculoskeletal adaptation, but that the signals needn't be large to be influential. The biasing of MSC differentiation by mechanical signals represents a unique means by which adiposity can be inhibited while simultaneously promoting a better skeleton, and may provide the basis for a safe, non-invasive, non-pharmacologic strategy to prevent both obesity and osteoporosis, yet uniquely - without targeting the resident fat or bone cell.