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Bone Marrow MSCs Defeat ASCs in an Osteogenic Face-Off



Review of “Inferior in vivo Osteogenesis and Superior Angiogenesis of Human Adipose Tissue-Compared with Bone Marrow-Derived Stromal Stem Cells Cultured in Xeno-Free Conditions” from STEM CELLS Translational Medicine by Stuart P. Atkinson

While bone repair strategies employing bone marrow (BM)-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have reached the clinical investigation stage [1], many researchers envisage adipose-derived MSCs (ASC) as a potentially attractive alternative, given their ease of collection and relative abundance when compared to BM-MSCs. Several studies have suggested that ASCs undergo limited osteogenic differentiation in vivo [2-4], although we currently lack studies directly evaluating the osteogenic potential of BM-MSCs and ASCs under the same conditions.

Thankfully, researchers from the laboratory of Pierre Layrolle (University of Nantes, France) have now risen to this osteogenic challenge in a new STEM CELLS Translational Medicine study. Brennan et al. characterized the in vitro and in vivo differentiation potential of BM-MSC and ASCs and now demonstrate that BM-MSCs may just have the edge in this osteogenic face-off [5]!

Initial in vitro studies provided encouraging signs for ASCs; assays carried out under xeno-free conditions indicated the superior osteogenic differentiation of ASCs compared with BM-MSCs. The authors moved to an in vivo setting and the injection of MSCs into an ectopic site to avoid the presence of host osteogenic cells and, therefore, to evaluate the real osteoinductive capacity of both MSC types. Following implantation of BM-MSCs and ASCs in the subcutis of nude mice (alongside a biphasic calcium phosphate substrate), ASCs strongly enhanced neovascularization after eight weeks suggesting their utility in the treatment of ischemia-related diseases [6]. However, ASCs displayed inferior ectopic bone forming potential when compared to BM-MSCs, even following potentiation by priming with osteogenic supplements. 

Even though ASCs represent an easy to access and abundant stem cell type and display encouraging bone forming characteristics in vitro, they finish in second place in the in vivo osteogenic face-off with the more difficult to access BM-MSCs. For more stem cell face-offs, stay tuned to the Stem Cells Portal.


  1. Stanovici, J., et al., Bone regeneration strategies with bone marrow stromal cells in orthopaedic surgery. Curr Res Transl Med 2016;64:83-90.
  2. Mesimaki, K., et al., Novel maxillary reconstruction with ectopic bone formation by GMP adipose stem cells. Int J Oral Maxillofac Surg 2009;38:201-9.
  3. Lendeckel, S., et al., Autologous stem cells (adipose) and fibrin glue used to treat widespread traumatic calvarial defects: case report. J Craniomaxillofac Surg 2004;32:370-3.
  4. Kulakov, A.A., et al., Clinical study of the efficiency of combined cell transplant on the basis of multipotent mesenchymal stromal adipose tissue cells in patients with pronounced deficit of the maxillary and mandibulary bone tissue. Bull Exp Biol Med 2008;146:522-5.
  5. Brennan, M.A., et al., Inferior In Vivo Osteogenesis and Superior Angiogeneis of Human Adipose Tissue: A Comparison with Bone Marrow-Derived Stromal Stem Cells Cultured in Xeno-Free Conditions. STEM CELLS Translational Medicine 2017;6:2160-2172.
  6. Kim, Y.J., et al., Direct Comparison of Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells Derived from Adipose Tissues and Bone Marrow in Mediating Neovascularization in Response to Vascular Ischemia. Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry 2007;20:867-876.