Prolonged exposure to hypoxic milieu improves the osteogenic potential of adipose derived stem cells

Caterina Fotia, Annamaria Massa, Filippo Boriani, Nicola Baldini, Donatella Granchi

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Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) have been widely used in orthopedics for several applications. Conventionally, MSC are maintained under 21% O2 which does not reflect the real O2 tension in vivo. Recently, it was reported that different O2 conditions can give different cellular responses. Here, we investigated whether prolonged exposure to hypoxia affects the osteogenic differentiation of adipose-derived stem cells (ASC). ASC from six individuals were cultured under "low" (2-3%) or "air" (21%) oxygen tensions, either without or with osteogenic stimuli. The effect of the O2 tension was evaluated on cell proliferation, surface antigens, stemness and bone-related genes expression, alkaline phosphatase activity (ALP), mineralization activity, and release of osteogenic growth factors. Without differentiating stimuli, hypoxia favored ASC proliferation, reduced the number of CD184+ and CD34+ cells, and preserved the expression of NANOG and SOX2. The combination of hypoxia and osteogenic medium induced a high proliferation rate, a rapid and more pronounced mineralization activity, a higher expression of genes related to the MSC differentiation, a higher release of mitogenic growth factors (bFGF, PDGF-BB), and the decrease in TGF-β secretion, an inhibitor of the early stage of the osteoblast differentiation. We demonstrated that hypoxia acts dually, favoring ASC proliferation and the maintenance of the stemness in the absence of osteogenic stimuli, but inducing the differentiation in a bone-like microenvironment. In conclusion, prolonged cell culture in hypoxic microenvironment represents a proper method to modulate the stem cell function that may be used in several applications, for example, studies on bone pathophysiology or bone-tissue engineering. J. Cell. Biochem. 116: 1442-1453, 2015.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1442-1453
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cellular Biochemistry
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2015



ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Medicine(all)


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