Background: Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are unique in their ability to self-renew and
differentiate into one of many lineage possibilities. It is therefore integral to preserve these qualities to
prevent the far reaching effects of a defective stem cell. Human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSC) are
precursors for and can differentiate into osteoblasts, adipocytes and chondrocytes. They were originally
found in the bone marrow, but have also been located in the umbilical cord, adipose tissue and muscle.
Few studies have been conducted into the in vivo effects of age on these cells. This contribution reviews
current knowledge surrounding the effects of age on the characteriation and differentiation of human
mesenchymal stem cells.
Method: 471 articles were found using a combination of Online published articles from January 1983 to
January 2016 were searched using the Cochrane Library, PubMed, Medline, Scopus, Web of Science
and Science Direct databases. There were no existing systematic reviews on this research topic.
Results: Nine studies were identified that met the predefined selection criteria. Three studies were used
to assess the effects of ageing on characterisation of hMSC with no conclusive results. The cumulative
results of these studies show that the effect of ageing on characterisation of hMSC remains inconclusive.
Seven studies were used to assess the differentiation potentials of hMSC showing that age either
decreased or altered lineage preference in hMSC differentiation.
Conclusion: There is indication that ageing affects hMSC characterisation and differentiation, however it
is not conclusive. There are not enough high quality controlled clinical trials to make reliable conclusions.