Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) were discovered as a rare population of non-hematopoietic stem cells that reside in the bone marrow and interact closely with hematopoietic stem cells to support their growth and differentiation. MSCs are multipotent cells that have the ability to differentiate into cells of the mesenchymal lineage including adipocytes, osteocytes and chondrocytes and they have been reported to home to areas of tissue injury and participate in tissue repair. More recently, MSCs have also been described to possess anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties that can affect multiple arms of the immune system. MSCs have been shown to inhibit T and B cell proliferation, downregulate the lytic activity of cytotoxic T lymphocytes and NK cells, inhibit the maturation and antigen-presenting function of dendritic cells and modulate macrophage function through both contact-dependent and contact-independent mechanisms. The administration of MSCs in models of autoimmune disease such as collagen-induced arthritis, EAE and autoimmune diabetes has provided additional evidence for an immunoregulatory role of MSCs supporting their use in controlling autoimmunity. The administration of allogeneic MSCs as immunosuppressive agents represents a viable approach as they appear to be largely non-immunogenic and clinical trials with allogeneic MSCs are currently underway in graftversus- host disease, Crohn's disease and type I diabetes indications. The immunomodulatory properties, mechanism of action and potential clinical utility of MSCs are reviewed herein.
Keywords: Mesenchymal stem cell, immunomodulation, autoimmunity, graft-versus-host disease, diabetes, lupus, therapeutic proteins, brain niches, nanotechnology, malignant brain diseases
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