Background: Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are one of the most promising candidates for the treatment of major neurological disorders. Desirable therapeutic properties of MSCs include reparative and regenerative potential but, despite their proven safety, the efficacy of MSCs remains controversial. Therefore, it is essential to optimise culture protocols to enhance the therapeutic potential of the MSC secretome. Here we aimed to: assess the increase in secretion of cytokines that may induce repair, regeneration, or immunomodulation when cultured in three dimensions; study the effect of interleukin (IL)-1 priming on two- (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) cultures of MSC; and evaluate the potential use of the modified secretome using microglial-MSC co-cultures.
Methods: We established a 3D spheroid culture of human MSCs, and compared the secretome in 2D and 3D cultures under primed (IL-1) and unprimed conditions. BV2 microglial cells were stimulated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and treated with spheroid conditioned media (CM) or were co-cultured with whole spheroids. Concentrations of secreted cytokines were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Protein arrays were used to further evaluate the effect of IL-1 priming in 2D and 3D cultures.
Results: 3D culture of MSCs significantly increased secretion of the IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) compared with 2D culture, despite priming treatments with IL-1 being more effective in 2D than in 3D. The addition of CM of 3D-MSCs reduced LPS-induced tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α secretion from BV2 cells, while the 3D spheroid co-cultured with the BV2 cells induced an increase in IL-6, but had no effect on TNF-α release. Protein arrays indicated that priming treatments trigger a more potent immune profile which is necessary to orchestrate an effective tissue repair. This effect was lost in 3D, partly because of the overexpression of IL-6.
Conclusions: Increased secretion of anti-inflammatory markers occurs when MSCs are cultured in 3D, but this specific secretome did not translate into anti-inflammatory effects on LPS-treated BV2 cells in co-culture. These data highlight the importance of optimising priming treatments and culture conditions to maximise the therapeutic potential of MSC spheroids.
Keywords: 3D culture; BV2 cells; Inflammation; Mesenchymal stem cell; Microglia; Spheroid.