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Research Finds Key to Identifying, Enriching Mesenchymal Stem Cells

Update Date: Jun 22, 2014 02:39 PM EDT

Researchers have identified a biomarker which can enable them to accurately characterize the properties and functions of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in the body, according to a new study. 

Presently, MSCs are the centre of research of nearly 200 active clinical trials registered with the National Institutes of Health. 

"There has been an increasing amount of clinical interest in MSCs, but advances have been slow because researchers to date have been unable to identify MSCs and study their normal physiological function in the body," said Dr. Sean Morrison, Director of the Children's Research Institute, Professor of Pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, in the press release. "We found that a protein known as leptin receptor can serve as a biomarker to accurately identify MSCs in adult bone marrow in vivo, and that those MSCs are the primary source of new bone formation and bone repair after injury."

Researchers also found that leptin receptor-positive MSCs are the main source of factors that promote the maintenance of blood-forming stem cells in the bone marrow. 

"Unfortunately, many clinical trials that are testing potential therapies using MSCs have been hampered by the use of poorly characterized and impure collections of cultured cells," added Dr. Morrison, senior author of the study and holder of the Mary McDermott Cook Chair in Pediatric Genetics at UT Southwestern, in the press release. "If this finding is duplicated in our studies with human MSCs, then it will improve the characterization of MSCs that are used clinically and could increase the probability of success for well-designed clinical trials using MSCs."

The findings of the study has been published in the journal Cell Stem Cell. 

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