Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are pluripotent stromal cells that have the potential to give rise to cells of diverse lineages. Interestingly, MSCs can be found in virtually all postnatal tissues. The main criteria currently used to characterize and identify these cells are the capacity for self-renewal and differentiation into tissues of mesodermal origin, combined with a lack in expression of certain hematopoietic molecules. Because of their developmental plasticity, the notion of MSC-based therapeutic intervention has become an emerging strategy for the replacement of injured tissues. MSCs have also been noted to possess the ability to impart profound immunomodulatory effects in vivo. Indeed, some of the initial observations regarding MSC protection from tissue injury once thought mediated by tissue regeneration may, in reality, result from immunomodulation. Whereas the exact mechanisms underlying the immunomodulatory functions of MSC remain largely unknown, these cells have been exploited in a variety of clinical trials aimed at reducing the burden of immune-mediated disease. This article focuses on recent advances that have broadened our understanding of the immunomodulatory properties of MSC and provides insight as to their potential for clinical use as a cell-based therapy for immune-mediated disorders and, in particular, type 1 diabetes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Internal Medicine
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism