Mesenchymal stem cells: The roles and functions in cutaneous wound healing and tumor growth

J Dermatol Sci. 2017 May;86(2):83-89. doi: 10.1016/j.jdermsci.2016.11.005. Epub 2016 Nov 11.


Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are bone marrow-derived non-hematopoietic progenitor cells. MSCs are able to differentiate into various types of cells, including chondrocytes, adipocytes, osteocytes, myocytes, endothelial cells, and keratinocytes. There is increasing evidence that MSCs might be located external to the vasculature, and that perivascular cells in the skin, generally called as "pericytes", might include MSCs. It has been suggested that MSCs localized around blood vessels might migrate into wounds and contribute to the restoration of injured tissues. Many studies have demonstrated that intravenous or intradermal administration of MSCs enhanced cutaneous wound healing, such as acute incisional and excisional wounds, diabetic ulcers, radiation ulcers, and burns in animals and humans. Several mechanisms of the acceleration of wound healing by MSCs have been identified, including the enhancement of angiogenesis by secretion of pro-angiogenic factors and the differentiation into endothelial cells and/or pericytes, M2 macrophages polarization, the recruitment of endogenous stem/progenitor cells, extracellular matrix production and remodeling, and immunosuppressive effects. Since the microenvironments of wounds and/or injured tissues are similar to those of tumors, MSCs also play similar roles in malignant tumors, such as the enhancement of angiogenesis, M2 macrophages polarization, and immunosuppressive effects. In addition, the mechanisms of homing of MSCs might have a commonality in the pathogenesis of wound healing and tumors. Thus, the regulating factors of MSCs, including MFG-E8, could be a therapeutic target and lead to the establishment of new therapeutic approaches for both intractable wound healing and tumors.

Keywords: Angiogenesis; MFG-E8; Macrophages; Malignant melanoma; Mesenchymal stem cells; Wound healing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Endothelial Cells / cytology*
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Keratinocytes / cytology
  • Macrophages / cytology
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic
  • Pericytes / cytology
  • Skin / pathology*
  • Wound Healing / physiology*


  • Immunosuppressive Agents