Stem cell therapy is in constant need of new cell sources to conceive regenerative medicine approaches for diseases that are still without therapy. Scientists drew the attention toward amniotic membrane and amniotic fluid stem cells, since these sources possess many advantages: first of all as cells can be extracted from discarded foetal material it is inexpensive, secondly abundant stem cells can be obtained and finally, these stem cell sources are free from ethical considerations. Many studies have demonstrated the differentiation potential in vitro and in vivo toward mesenchymal and non-mesenchymal cell types; in addition the immune-modulatory properties make these cells a good candidate for allo- and xenotransplantation. This review offers an overview on markers characterisation and on the latest findings in pre-clinical or clinical setting of the stem cell populations isolated from these sources.
More than 40% of the body mass is represented by muscle tissue, which possesses the innate ability to regenerate after damage through the activation of muscle-specific stem cells, namely satellite cells. Muscle diseases, in particular chronic degenerative states of skeletal muscle such as dystrophies, lead to a perturbation of the regenerative process, which causes the premature exhaustion of satellite cell reservoir due to continuous cycles of degeneration/regeneration. Nowadays, the research is focused on different therapeutic approaches, ranging from gene and cell to pharmacological therapy, but still there is no definitive cure in particular for genetic muscle disease. Keeping this in mind, in this article, we will give special consideration to muscle diseases and the use of fetal derived stem cells as a new approach for therapy. Cells of fetal origin, from cord blood to placenta and amniotic fluid, can be easily obtained without ethical concern, expanded and differentiated in culture, and possess immune-modulatory properties. The in vivo approach in animal models can be helpful to study the mechanism underneath the operating principle of the stem cell reservoir, namely the niche, which holds great potential to understand the onset of muscle pathologies.
Amniotic fluid-derived stem (AFS) cells have been described as an appealing source of stem cells because of their (1) fetal, non-embryonic origin, (2) easy access during pregnancy overcoming the ethical issues related both to the use of human embryonic cells and to the postnatal tissue biopsy with donor site morbidity, and (3) their undemanding ability to be expanded. We and others have demonstrated the broad differentiation potential and here we describe the established protocol we developed to obtain c-Kit+ human AFS cells, starting from second trimester amniocentesis samples.
In the last few years, recent evidence has revealed that inside an apparently homogeneous cell population there indeed appears to be heterogeneity. This is particularly true for embryonic stem (ES) cells where markers of pluripotency are dynamically expressed within the single cells. In this work, we have designed and tested a new set of primers for multiplex PCR detection of pluripotency markers expression, and have applied it to perform a single-cell analysis in murine ES cells cultured on three different substrates that could play an important role in controlling cell behaviour and fate: (i) mouse embryonic fibroblast (MEF) feeder layer, as the standard method for ES cells culture; (ii) Matrigel coating; (iii) micropatterned hydrogel.
Necrotising enterocolitis (NEC) remains one of the primary causes of morbidity and mortality in neonates and alternative strategies are needed. Stem cells have become a therapeutic option for other intestinal diseases, which share some features with NEC. We tested the hypothesis that amniotic fluid stem (AFS) cells exerted a beneficial effect in a neonatal rat model of NEC.
Human amniotic fluid stem (hAFS) cells, a novel class of broadly multipotent stem cells that share characteristics of both embryonic and adult stem cells, have been regarded as promising candidate for cell therapy. Taking advantage by the well-established murine model of acute kidney injury (AKI), we studied the proregenerative effect of hAFS cells in immunodeficient mice injected with the nephrotoxic drug cisplatin. Infusion of hAFS cells in cisplatin mice improved renal function and limited tubular damage, although not to control level, and prolonged animal survival. Human AFS cells engrafted injured kidney predominantly in peritubular region without acquiring tubular epithelial markers. Human AFS cells exerted antiapoptotic effect, activated Akt, and stimulated proliferation of tubular cells possibly via local release of factors, including interleukin-6, vascular endothelial growth factor, and stromal cell-derived factor-1, which we documented in vitro to be produced by hAFS cells. The therapeutic potential of hAFS cells was enhanced by cell pretreatment with glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), which markedly ameliorated renal function and tubular injury by increasing stem cell homing to the tubulointerstitial compartment. By in vitro studies, GDNF increased hAFS cell production of growth factors, motility, and expression of receptors involved in cell homing and survival. These findings indicate that hAFS cells can promote functional recovery and contribute to renal regeneration in AKI mice via local production of mitogenic and prosurvival factors. The effects of hAFS cells can be remarkably enhanced by GDNF preconditioning.
Cell therapy has developed as a complementary treatment for myocardial regeneration. While both autologous and allogeneic uses have been advocated, the ideal candidate has not been identified yet. Amniotic fluid-derived stem (AFS) cells are potentially a promising resource for cell therapy and tissue engineering of myocardial injuries. However, no information is available regarding their use in an allogeneic context. c-kit-sorted, GFP-positive rat AFS (GFP-rAFS) cells and neonatal rat cardiomyocytes (rCMs) were characterized by cytocentrifugation and flow cytometry for the expression of mesenchymal, embryonic and cell lineage-specific antigens. The activation of the myocardial gene program in GFP-rAFS cells was induced by co-culture with rCMs. The stem cell differentiation was evaluated using immunofluorescence, RT-PCR and single cell electrophysiology. The in vivo potential of Endorem-labeled GFP-rAFS cells for myocardial repair was studied by transplantation in the heart of animals with ischemia/reperfusion injury (I/R), monitored by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Three weeks after injection a small number of GFP-rAFS cells acquired an endothelial or smooth muscle phenotype and to a lesser extent CMs. Despite the low GFP-rAFS cells count in the heart, there was still an improvement of ejection fraction as measured by MRI. rAFS cells have the in vitro propensity to acquire a cardiomyogenic phenotype and to preserve cardiac function, even if their potential may be limited by poor survival in an allogeneic setting.
Besides having a metabolic role, oxygen is recognized as an important signaling stimulus for stem cells. In hematopoiesis, hypoxia seems to favor stem cell self-renewal. In fact, long-term repopulating hematopoietic stem cells reside in bone marrow at concentrations as low as 1% oxygen. However, O2 concentration is difficult to control in vitro. Thermodynamically, we found significant differences between O2 solubility in different media, and in presence of serum. Furthermore, we verified that medium equilibration with a hypoxic atmosphere requires several hours. Thus, in a static culture, the effective O2 concentration in the cell immediate microenvironment is difficult to control and subject to concentration gradients. Stirred systems improve homogeneity within the culture volume. In this work, we developed a stirred bioreactor to investigate hypoxia effect on the expression of stem cell markers in CD34+ cells from umbilical cord blood. The stirring system was designed on top of a standard six-well plate to favor continuity with conventional static conditions and transfer of culture protocols. The bioreactor volume (10 mL/well) is suitable for cell expansion and multiparametric flow cytometry analyses. First, it was tested at 21% O2 for biocompatibility and other possible effects on the cells compared to static conditions. Then, it was used to study c-kit expression of CD34+ cells at 5% O2, using 21%-O2 cultures as a control. In hypoxia we found that CD34+ cells maintained a higher expression of c-kit. Further investigation is needed to explore the dynamics of interaction between oxygen- and c-kit-dependent pathways at the molecular level.
It is known that the bone marrow (BM) CD133(+) cells play an important role in the hematopoietic compartment, but this is not their only role. The cells indeed can take part in vascular reconstitution when they become endothelial cells (EC), in skeletal muscle fiber regeneration when there is a switch in muscle precursors, and to cardiomyocyte phenotypic conversion when differentiating in cardiomyocytes-like cells. While the role in hematopoiesis and vasculogenesis of the selected cells is well established, their ability to differentiate along multiple non-EC lineages has not yet been fully elucidated. The goal of this study is to assert whether human CD133(+)BM-derived cells are able to differentiate in vitro, besides to blood cells, cell lineages pertinent to the mesoderm germ layers. To this end, we isolated CD133(+) cells using a clinically approved methodology and compared their differentiation potential to that of hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPCs) and mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) obtained from the same BM samples. In our culture conditions, CD133 expression was consistently decreased after passage 2, as well as the expression of the stemness markers c-kit and OCT4, whereas expression of Stage Specific Embryonic Antigen 4 (SSEA4) remained consistent in all different conditions. Expanded CD133 were also positive for HLA-ABC, but negative for HLA-DR, in accordance with what has been previously reported for MSCs. Moreover, CD133(+) cells from human BM demonstrated a wide range of differentiation potential, encompassing not only mesodermal but also ectodermal (neurogenic) cell lineages. CD133 antigen could be potentially used to select a cell population with similar characteristics as MSCs for therapeutic applications.
The potential for in vitro colonization of decellularized valves by human bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (hBM-MSCs) towards the anisotropic layers ventricularis and fibrosa and in homo- vs. heterotypic cell-ECM interactions has never been investigated. hBM-MSCs were expanded and characterized by immunofluorescence and FACS analysis. Porcine and human pulmonary valve leaflets (p- and hPVLs, respectively) underwent decellularization with Triton X100-sodium cholate treatment (TRICOL), followed by nuclear fragment removal. hBM-MSCs (2x10(6) cells/cm(2)) were seeded onto fibrosa (FS) or ventricularis (VS) of decellularized PVLs, precoated with FBS and fibronectin, and statically cultured for 30 days. Bioengineered PVLs revealed no histopathological features but a reconstructed endothelium lining and the presence of fibroblasts, myofibroblasts and SMCs, as in the corresponding native leaflet. The two valve layers behaved differently as regards hBM-MSC repopulation potential, however, with a higher degree of 3D spreading and differentiation in VS than in FS samples, and with enhanced cell survival and colonization effects in the homotypic ventricularis matrix, suggesting that hBM-MSC phenotypic conversion is strongly influenced in vitro by the anisotropic valve microstructure and species-specific matching between extracellular matrix and donor cells. These findings are of particular relevance to in vivo future applications of valve tissue engineering.
An in vitro muscle-like structure with parallel-oriented contractile myotubes is needed as a model of muscle tissue regeneration. For this purpose, it is necessary to reproduce a controllable microscale environment mimicking the in vivo cues. In this work we focused on the application of topological and electrical stimuli on muscle precursor cell (MPC) culture to influence MPC orientation and induce myotube alignment. The two stimulations were tested both independently and together. A structural and topological template was achieved using micropatterned poly-(L-lactic acid) membranes. Electrical stimulation, consisting of square pulses of 70 mV/cm amplitude each 30 s, was applied to the MPC culture. The effect of different pulse durations on cultures was evaluated by galvanotaxis analysis. The highest cell displacement rate toward the cathode was observed for 3 ms pulse stimulation, which was then applied in combination with topological stimuli. Topological and electrical stimuli had an additive effect in enhancing differentiation of cultured MPC, shown by high Troponin I protein production and, in parallel, Myogenin and Desmin genes, down- and upregulation respectively.
Satellite cells (SCs) are essential for postnatal muscle growth and regeneration, however, their expansion potential in vitro is limited. Recently, hypoxia has been used to enhance proliferative abilities in vitro of various primary cultures. Here, by isolating SCs from single mouse hindlimb skeletal myofibers, we were able to distinguish two subpopulations of clonally cultured SCs (Low Proliferative Clones--LPC--and High Proliferative Clones--HPC), which, as shown in rat skeletal muscle, were present at a fixed proportion. In addition, culturing LPC and HPC at a low level of oxygen we observed a two fold increased proliferation both for LPC and HPC. LPC showed higher myogenic regulatory factor (MRF) expression than HPC, particularly under the hypoxic condition. Notably, a different myogenic potential between LPC and HPC was retained in vivo: green fluorescent protein (GFP)+LPC transplantation in cardiotoxin-injured Tibialis Anterior led to a higher number of new GFP+muscle fibers per transplanted cell than GFP+HPC. Interestingly, the in vivo myogenic potential of a single cell from an LPC is similar if cultured both in normoxia and hypoxia. Therefore, starting from a single satellite cell, hypoxia allows a larger expansion of LPC than normal O(2) conditions, obtaining a consistent amount of cells for transplantation, but maintaining their myogenic regeneration potential.
Mutations in the survival of motor neuron gene (SMN1) are responsible for spinal muscular atrophy, a fatal neuromuscular disorder. Mice carrying a homozygous deletion of Smn exon 7 directed to skeletal muscle (HSA-Cre, Smn(F7/F7) mice) present clinical features of human muscular dystrophies for which new therapeutic approaches are highly warranted. Herein we demonstrate that tail vein transplantation of mouse amniotic fluid stem (AFS) cells enhances the muscle strength and improves the survival rate of the affected animals. Second, after cardiotoxin injury of the Tibialis Anterior, only AFS-transplanted mice efficiently regenerate. Most importantly, secondary transplants of satellite cells (SCs) derived from treated mice show that AFS cells integrate into the muscle stem cell compartment and have long-term muscle regeneration capacity indistinguishable from that of wild-type-derived SC. This is the first study demonstrating the functional and stable integration of AFS cells into the skeletal muscle, highlighting their value as cell source for the treatment of muscular dystrophies.
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