Natural history of mesenchymal stem cells, from vessel walls to culture vessels

Iain R. Murray, Christopher C. West, Winters R. Hardy, Aaron W. James, Tea Soon Park, Alan Nguyen, Tulyapruek Tawonsawatruk, Lorenza Lazzari, Chia Soo, Bruno Péault

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (MSCs) can regenerate tissues by direct differentiation or indirectly by stimulating angiogenesis, limiting inflammation, and recruiting tissue-specific progenitor cells. MSCs emerge and multiply in long-term cultures of total cells from the bone marrow or multiple other organs. Such a derivation in vitro is simple and convenient, hence popular, but has long precluded understanding of the native identity, tissue distribution, frequency, and natural role of MSCs, which have been defined and validated exclusively in terms of surface marker expression and developmental potential in culture into bone, cartilage, and fat. Such simple, widely accepted criteria uniformly typify MSCs, even though some differences in potential exist, depending on tissue sources. Combined immunohistochemistry, flow cytometry, and cell culture have allowed tracking the artifactual cultured mesenchymal stem/stromal cells back to perivascular anatomical regions. Presently, both pericytes enveloping microvessels and adventitial cells surrounding larger arteries and veins have been described as possible MSC forerunners. While such a vascular association would explain why MSCs have been isolated from virtually all tissues tested, the origin of the MSCs grown from umbilical cord blood remains unknown. In fact, most aspects of the biology of perivascular MSCs are still obscure, from the emergence of these cells in the embryo to the molecular control of their activity in adult tissues. Such dark areas have not compromised intents to use these cells in clinical settings though, in which purified perivascular cells already exhibit decisive advantages over conventional MSCs, including purity, thorough characterization and, principally, total independence from in vitro culture. A growing body of experimental data is currently paving the way to the medical usage of autologous sorted perivascular cells for indications in which MSCs have been previously contemplated or actually used, such as bone regeneration and cardiovascular tissue repair.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1353-1374
Number of pages22
JournalCellular and Molecular Life Sciences
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Blood vessels
  • Cell therapy
  • Mesenchymal stem cells
  • Pericytes
  • Stem cells
  • Tissue repair

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Natural history of mesenchymal stem cells, from vessel walls to culture vessels'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this