International Society for Cellular Therapy perspective on immune functional assays for mesenchymal stromal cells as potency release criterion for advanced phase clinical trials

Cytotherapy. 2016 Feb;18(2):151-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jcyt.2015.11.008. Epub 2015 Dec 23.


Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) as a pharmaceutical for ailments characterized by pathogenic autoimmune, alloimmune and inflammatory processes now cover the spectrum of early- to late-phase clinical trials in both industry and academic sponsored studies. There is a broad consensus that despite different tissue sourcing and varied culture expansion protocols, human MSC-like cell products likely share fundamental mechanisms of action mediating their anti-inflammatory and tissue repair functionalities. Identification of functional markers of potency and reduction to practice of standardized, easily deployable methods of measurements of such would benefit the field. This would satisfy both mechanistic research as well as development of release potency assays to meet Regulatory Authority requirements for conduct of advanced clinical studies and their eventual registration. In response to this unmet need, the International Society for Cellular Therapy (ISCT) addressed the issue at an international workshop in May 2015 as part of the 21st ISCT annual meeting in Las Vegas. The scope of the workshop was focused on discussing potency assays germane to immunomodulation by MSC-like products in clinical indications targeting immune disorders. We here provide consensus perspective arising from this forum. We propose that focused analysis of selected MSC markers robustly deployed by in vitro licensing and metricized with a matrix of assays should be responsive to requirements from Regulatory Authorities. Workshop participants identified three preferred analytic methods that could inform a matrix assay approach: quantitative RNA analysis of selected gene products; flow cytometry analysis of functionally relevant surface markers and protein-based assay of secretome. We also advocate that potency assays acceptable to the Regulatory Authorities be rendered publicly accessible in an "open-access" manner, such as through publication or database collection.

Keywords: ISCT; Mesenchymal Stromal cells; clinical trials; immune functional testing; matrix assays; potency assays; release assays.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Assay / methods*
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cell- and Tissue-Based Therapy / methods*
  • Flow Cytometry / methods
  • Humans
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation / methods*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology*


  • Biomarkers