Comparison between fibroblasts and mesenchymal stem cells derived from dermal and adipose tissue

Int J Cosmet Sci. 2013 Oct;35(5):448-57. doi: 10.1111/ics.12064. Epub 2013 Jun 27.


Objective: Stem cells have the ability to renew themselves and differentiate into various cell types. For this reason, numerous research groups have been studying these cells for their therapeutic potential. Some of the therapies, however, are not producing the expected results because of contamination by other cell types, especially by fibroblasts. In the cosmetic industry, stem cells are used to test the efficacy of anti-ageing and rejuvenation products. The purpose of this work was to gain a better understanding of the differences in phenotype, in gene expression associated with stem cells, in the pattern of cell surface proteins and in the differentiation capacity of adipose-derived stem cells, of skin-derived stem cells and of commercially available fibroblasts.

Methods: In this study, we compared fibroblasts with mesenchymal stem cells derived from bone marrow, skin (dermis) and adipose tissue, to assess the differentiation potential of fibroblasts. Dermal and adipose stem cells were isolated from aesthetic surgery patients, and fibroblasts were obtained from a commercial source. The following parameters were used in this study: immunophenotypic profile (positive: CD29, CD73, CD90 and CD105; negative: CD14, CD45 and HLA-DR); differentiation into osteoblastic, chondrogenic and adipogenic cell types; and PCR array to analyse the gene expression of cells isolated from different culture passages.

Results: Fibroblasts express the same cell immunophenotypic markers, as well as the genes that are known to be expressed in stem cells, and were shown to be expressed also in adipose and dermis stem cells. Fibroblasts are also able to differentiate into the three cell lineages mentioned above, that is, adipocytes, osteocytes and chondrocytes.

Conclusion: Human dermal fibroblasts have a potential to adhere to plastic surfaces and differentiate into other cell types. However, for stem cells intended to be used in cosmetics, experiments conducted with contaminated fibroblasts may produce poor or even falsely negative results for the efficacy of the active ingredient or formulation and thus conceal their promising effects as anti-ageing and skin rejuvenation products.

Keywords: adipose tissue; cell culture; fibroblasts; genetic analysis; mesenchymal stem cell; skin physiology.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / cytology*
  • Adipose Tissue / physiology
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / cytology*
  • Fibroblasts / physiology
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / physiology
  • RNA / chemistry
  • RNA / genetics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Skin / cytology*


  • RNA