Time-Dependent Recovery of Human Synovial Membrane Mesenchymal Stem Cell Function After High-Dose Steroid Therapy: Case Report and Laboratory Study

Am J Sports Med. 2018 Mar;46(3):695-701. doi: 10.1177/0363546517741307. Epub 2017 Dec 11.


Background: The use of mesenchymal stem cells from various tissue sources to repair injured tissues has been explored over the past decade in large preclinical models and is now moving into the clinic.

Purpose: To report the case of a patient who exhibited compromised mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) function shortly after use of high-dose steroid to treat Bell's palsy, who recovered 7 weeks after therapy.

Study design: Case report and controlled laboratory study.

Methods: A patient enrolled in a first-in-human clinical trial for autologous implantation of a scaffold-free tissue engineered construct (TEC) derived from synovial MSCs for chondral lesion repair had a week of high-dose steroid therapy for Bell's palsy. Synovial tissue was harvested for MSC preparation after a 3-week recovery period and again at 7 weeks after therapy.

Results: The MSC proliferation rates and cell surface marker expression profiles from the 3-week sample met conditions for further processing. However, the cells failed to generate a functional TEC. In contrast, MSCs harvested at 7 weeks after steroid therapy were functional in this regard. Further in vitro studies with MSCs and steroids indicated that the effect of in vivo steroids was likely a direct effect of the drug on the MSCs.

Conclusion: This case suggests that MSCs are transiently compromised after high-dose steroid therapy and that careful consideration regarding timing of MSC harvest is critical.

Clinical relevance: The drug profiles of MSC donors and recipients must be carefully monitored to optimize opportunities to successfully repair damaged tissues.

Keywords: articular cartilage resurfacing; cell/molecular biology; knee articular cartilage; stem cell therapy; tissue engineering.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / drug effects*
  • Steroids / administration & dosage*
  • Synovial Membrane / cytology*
  • Tissue Engineering


  • Steroids