Umbilical cord blood (UCB) has been increasingly explored as an alternative source of stem cells for use in regenerative medicine due to several advantages over other stem-cell sources, including the need for less stringent human leukocyte antigen matching. Combined with an osteoinductive signal, UCB-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) could revolutionize the treatment of challenging bone defects. This study aimed to develop an ex vivo regional gene-therapy strategy using BMP-2-transduced allogeneic UCB-MSCs to promote bone repair. To this end, human UCB-MSCs were transduced with a lentiviral vector carrying the cDNA for BMP-2 (LV-BMP-2). In vitro assays to determine the UCB-MSC osteogenic potential and BMP-2 production were followed by in vivo implantation of LV-BMP-2-transduced UCB-MSCs in a mouse hind-limb muscle pouch. Non-transduced and LV-GFP-transduced UCB-MSCs were used as controls. Transduction with LV-BMP-2 was associated with abundant BMP-2 production and induction of osteogenic differentiation in vitro. Implantation of BMP-2-transduced UCB-MSCs led to robust heterotopic bone formation 4 weeks postoperatively, as seen on radiographs and histology. These results, along with the fact that UCB-MSCs can be easily collected with no donor-site morbidity and low immunogenicity, suggest that UCB might be a preferable allogeneic source of MSCs to develop an ex vivo gene-therapy approach to treat difficult bone-repair scenarios.
Keywords: gene therapy; BMP-2; bone repair; lentivirus; umbilical cord blood.