Background: Regenerative medicine is strictly dependent on stem cells as a source for a high diversity of somatic cells. However, the isolation of such from individuals suffering from severe genetic skin blistering diseases like epidermolysis bullosa (EB) is often associated with further organ damage.
Methods: Stem cells were isolated from 112 urine samples from 21 different healthy donors, as well as from 33 urine samples from 25 donors with EB. The cultivation of these cells was optimized by testing different media formulations and pre-coating of culture vessels with collagen. The identity of cells was confirmed by testing marker expression, differentiation potential and immune-modulatory properties.
Results: We provide here an optimized protocol for the reproducible isolation of mesenchymal stem cells from urine, even from small volumes as obtained from patients with EB. Furthermore, we offer a basic characterization of those urine-derived stem cells (USCs) from healthy donors, as well as from patients with EB, and demonstrate their potential to differentiate into chondrocytes, osteoblasts and adipocytes, as well as their immune-modulatory properties.
Conclusions: Thus, USCs provide a novel and non-invasive source of stem cells, which might be applied for gene-therapeutic approaches to improve medical conditions of patients with EB.