Is an MSC a stem cell or a signaling cell?

Over the past few decades, stem cells have become synonymous with regenerative medicine. Stem cells are unspecialized cells that have the capacity for self-renewal and the ability to specialize into different adult cell types. With the dawn of stem cell therapies has come many misconceptions; the most prevalent misconception is that stem cell therapies involve embryonic stem cells. In fact, the majority of stem cell therapies are derived from adult stem cells that are harvested from the bone marrow or fat of adults. These treatments were initially based on the underlying principle that infused stem cells congregate at injured tissue sites, differentiate into the injured tissue type, and replace the injured tissue with new, healthy tissue. 

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are an adult stem cell type that feature heavily in cell therapies. They are a multipotent cell that can specialize into mesenchymal tissue types (e.g. bone, cartilage, fat). When MSCs were discovered, they were branded as ‘stem cells’ because they exhibited in vitro multipotency capabilities. This discovery made them an attractive therapy option for clinicians. Since then, hundreds of cell therapy studies have been performed with living MSCs infusions. This paradigm has fueled the way regenerative medicine has designed and developed stem cell therapies for over a decade.

But do MSCs work the way we originally thought? 

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