Bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (MSCs) have demonstrated success in the clinical treatment of hematopoietic pathologies and cardiovascular disease and are the focus of treating other diseases of the musculoskeletal, digestive, integumentary, and nervous systems. However, during the requisite two-dimensional (2D) expansion to achieve a clinically relevant number of cells, MSCs exhibit profound degeneration in progenitor potency. Proliferation, multilineage potential, and colony-forming efficiency are fundamental progenitor properties that are abrogated by extensive monolayer culture. To harness the robust therapeutic potential of MSCs, a consistent, rapid, and minimally detrimental expansion method is necessary. Alternative expansion efforts have exhibited promise in the ability to preserve MSC progenitor potency better than the 2D paradigm by mimicking features of the native bone marrow niche. MSCs have been successfully expanded when stimulated by growth factors, under reduced oxygen tension, and in three-dimensional bioreactors. MSC therapeutic value can be optimized for clinical applications by combining system inputs to tailor culture parameters for recapitulating the niche with probes that nondestructively monitor progenitor potency. The purpose of this review is to explore how modulations in the 2D paradigm affect MSC progenitor properties and to highlight recent efforts in alternative expansion techniques.
Keywords: Bioreactor; Expansion; Growth factor; Hypoxia; Mesenchymal stromal/stem cell; Progenitor.