Early cell biology reports demonstrated the presence of cells with stem-like properties in bone marrow, with both hematopoietic and mesenchymal lineages. Over the years, various investigations have purified and characterized mesenchymal stromal/stem cells (MSCs) from different human tissues as cells with multilineage differentiation potential under the appropriate conditions. Due to their appealing characteristics and versatile potentials, MSCs are leveraged in many applications in medicine such as oncology, bioprinting, and as recent as therapeutics discovery and innovation for COVID-19. To date, studies indicate that MSCs have varied differentiation capabilities into different cell types, and demonstrate immunomodulating and anti-inflammatory properties. Different microenvironments or niche for MSCs and their resulting heterogeneity may influence attendant cellular behavior and differentiation capacity. The potential clinical applications of MSCs and exosomes derived from these cells have led to an avalanche of research reports on their properties and hundreds of clinical trials being undertaken. There is ample reason to think, as discussed in this expert review that the future looks bright and promising for MSC research, with many clinical trials under way to ascertain their clinical utility. This review provides a synthesis of the latest advances and trends in MSC research to allow for broad and critically informed use of MSCs. Early observations of the presence of these cells in the bone marrow and their remarkable differentiation capabilities and immunomodulation are also presented.
Keywords: International Society for Cell and Gene Therapy; cellular immunomodulation; clinical application; differentiation capacity; exosomes; inflammation; mesenchymal stem/stromal cells; regenerative medicine; signaling cells; tissue engineering; transplantation.