Cellular expansion of MSCs: Shifting the regenerative potential

Aging Cell. 2023 Jan;22(1):e13759. doi: 10.1111/acel.13759. Epub 2022 Dec 19.


Mesenchymal-derived stromal or progenitor cells, commonly called "MSCs," have attracted significant clinical interest for their remarkable abilities to promote tissue regeneration and reduce inflammation. Recent studies have shown that MSCs' therapeutic effects, originally attributed to the cells' direct differentiation capacity into the tissue of interest, are largely driven by the biomolecules the cells secrete, including cytokines, chemokines, growth factors, and extracellular vesicles containing miRNA. This secretome coordinates upregulation of endogenous repair and immunomodulation in the local microenvironment through crosstalk of MSCs with host tissue cells. Therapeutic applications for MSCs and their secretome-derived products often involve in vitro monolayer expansion. However, consecutive passaging of MSCs significantly alters their therapeutic potential, inducing a broad shift from a pro-regenerative to a pro-inflammatory phenotype. A consistent by-product of in vitro expansion of MSCs is the onset of replicative senescence, a state of cell arrest characterized by an increased release of proinflammatory cytokines and growth factors. However, little is known about changes in the secretome profile at different stages of in vitro expansion. Some culture conditions and bioprocessing techniques have shown promise in more effectively retaining the pro-regenerative and anti-inflammatory MSC phenotype throughout expansion. Understanding how in vitro expansion conditions influence the nature and function of MSCs, and their associated secretome, may provide key insights into the underlying mechanisms driving these alterations. Elucidating the dynamic and diverse changes in the MSC secretome at each stage of in vitro expansion is a critical next step in the development of standardized, safe, and effective MSC-based therapies.

Keywords: MSC; cellular senescence; in vitro expansion; mesenchymal stromal cell; passaging; regeneration; secretome.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Extracellular Vesicles* / metabolism
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells* / metabolism
  • MicroRNAs* / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • MicroRNAs