eCM (Eur Cell Mater / e Cells & Materials) eCM Open Access Scientific Journal
 ISSN:1473-2262         NLM:100973416 (link)         DOI:10.22203/eCM

2023   Volume No 45 – pages 143-157

Title: Understanding the effects of mesenchymal stromal cell therapy for treating osteoarthritis using an in vitro co-culture model

Authors:  V Shang, J Li, CB Little, JJ Li

Address: School of Biomedical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and IT, University of Technology Sydney, NSW 2007, Australia

E-mail: at

Abstract: Osteoarthritis (OA) is a leading cause of chronic pain and disability, for which there is no cure. Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) have been used in clinical trials for treating OA due to their unique ability to generate paracrine anti-inflammatory and trophic signals. Interestingly, these studies have shown mainly short-term effects of MSCs in improving pain and joint function, rather than sustained and consistent benefits. This may reflect a change or loss in the therapeutic effects of MSCs after intra-articular injection. The present study aimed to unravel the reasons behind the variable efficacy of MSC injections for OA using an in vitro co-culture model.
Osteoarthritic human synovial fibroblasts (OA-HSFs) were co-cultured with MSCs to investigate their reciprocal effects on cell responses and whether a short-term exposure of OA cells to MSCs was sufficient for reducing their diseased characteristics in a sustained manner. Gene expression and histological analyses were performed.
OA-HSFs exposed to MSCs showed short-term downregulation of inflammatory markers. However, the MSCs showed upregulation of inflammatory markers and impaired ability to undergo osteogenesis and chondrogenesis in the presence of OA-HSFs. Moreover, short-term exposure of OA-HSFs to MSCs was found to be insufficient for inducing sustained changes to their diseased behaviour.
These findings suggested that MSCs may not provide long-term effects in correcting the OA joint environment due to them adopting the diseased phenotype of the surrounding tissues, which has important implications for the future development of effective stem-cell-based OA treatments with long-term therapeutic efficacy.

Keywords: Mesenchymal stromal cells, osteoarthritis, synovial fibroblasts, co-culture, inflammation

Publication date: June 19th 2023

Article download: Pages 143-157 (PDF file)

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