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Adipose-derived MSCs Boosts Wound Healing, Whatever the Administration Route!

Review of “Fate of systemically and locally administered ASCs and their effect on wound healing” from STEM CELLS Translational Medicine by Stuart P. Atkinson

Clinical trials in patients with burns [1, 2], diabetic foot ulcers [3, 4], and critical limb ischemia [5, 6], have highlighted the vast therapeutic potential of mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapy as a wound treatment option. The availability, ease of harvest, high cell yield, and in vitro expansion potential have now provided the impetus for the investigation of adipose-derived MSCs (also known as ASCs) in clinical use, and a wide range of studies have begun to explore their biodistribution and engraftment into damaged tissue following systemic or local administration. 

In a new STEM CELLS Translational Medicine study, researchers from the laboratories of Karlien Kallmeyer (University of Pretoria, South Africa) and Ali Modarressi (University of Geneva, Switzerland) describe their findings regarding the distribution and survival of systemically and locally administered adipose-derived MSCs in a standardized rat model of cutaneous wound repair under physiological conditions [7]. Through the implementation of fluorescent-labeling of cells and bioluminescence imaging, the authors tracked the fate of adipose-derived MSCs and established that both systemic and local administration routes permitted for a significant enhancement in wound repair. Overall, this fascinating new study provides further evidence of the therapeutic abilities of adipose-derived MSCs, whatever the administration route!

The authors employed adipose-derived MSCs expressing both luciferase and green fluorescent protein, to allow tracking by bioluminescence imaging and immunohistological analysis, and a wound in the dorsal aspect of the rat hind paw as a model system. Systemic administration of adipose-derived MSCs via tail vein injection led to cell accumulation in the lungs shortly after injection, although any signal deriving from administered cells disappeared after 72 hours. The complete absence of fluorescent signals from the wound area suggested that adipose-derived MSCs failed to migrate significantly following systemic administration; however, the authors still detected increase wound closure by re‐epithelialization (rather than contraction), so suggesting that systemically administered adipose-derived MSCs can enhance wound repair distally from their site of entrapment in the lungs. Subsequent evaluation of adipose-derived MSCs applied directly to the wound found evidence for cell migration, engraftment, and survival for up to seven days, and the use of this administration route also prompted enhanced wound closure by re‐epithelialization rather than contraction.

Overall, the findings of the fascinating new study provide further evidence for the therapeutic relevance of adipose-derived MSCs in wound healing; the next steps noted by the authors include studying the effect of cell administration in a model of wound repair under pathological conditions to evaluate the management of chronic wounds. Given the wound healing activity associated with both administration routes, the next steps may also include an evaluation of the simultaneous systemic and local administration of adipose-derived MSCs in the hope of observing further enhancements in wound repair.

For more on how adipose-derived MSCs represent an effective means to heal wounds, whatever the administration route, stay tuned to the Stem Cells Portal!


  1. Francis E, Kearney L, and Clover J, The effects of stem cells on burn wounds: a review. International Journal of Burns and Trauma 2019;9:1-12.
  2. Maranda EL, Rodriguez-Menocal L, and Badiavas EV, Role of Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Dermal Repair in Burns and Diabetic Wounds. Current Stem Cell Research & Therapy 2017;12:61-70.
  3. Eric LM, Luis R-M, and Evangelos VB, Role of Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Dermal Repair in Burns and Diabetic Wounds. Current Stem Cell Research & Therapy 2017;12:61-70.
  4. Chen Y, Ma Y, Li N, et al., Efficacy and long-term longitudinal follow-up of bone marrow mesenchymal cell transplantation therapy in a diabetic patient with recurrent lower limb bullosis diabeticorum. Stem Cell Research & Therapy 2018;9:99.
  5. Gupta PK, Chullikana A, Parakh R, et al., A double blind randomized placebo controlled phase I/II study assessing the safety and efficacy of allogeneic bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cell in critical limb ischemia. Journal of Translational Medicine 2013;11:143.
  6. Lee HC, An SG, Lee HW, et al., Safety and Effect of Adipose Tissue-Derived Stem Cell Implantation in Patients With Critical Limb Ischemia - A Pilot Study. Circulation Journal 2012;76:1750-1760.
  7. Kallmeyer K, André-Lévigne D, Baquié M, et al., Fate of systemically and locally administered adipose-derived mesenchymal stromal cells and their effect on wound healing. STEM CELLS Translational Medicine 2020;9:131-144.