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From fibroblasts to medicinal signalling cells: a paradigm shift in translational stem cell research

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are fibroblast-like cells that give rise to mesenchymal derivatives including bone, fat and cartilage cells. In addition to the bone marrow, they can be readily obtained from adult vascularised peripheral tissues including adipose, olfactory, respiratory tissue, and peripheral blood.

MSCs and MSC-like cells can be isolated from the amniotic fluid and neonatal tissues such as umbilical cord and placenta. In general, MSCs are well tolerated, non-tumourigenic and the transplantation of these cells appears to be beneficial in a variety of diseases and conditions. Their high availability and relatively low-risk profile made MSCs a promising stem cell source for clinical exploitation.1 As of May 2018, more than 843 clinical trials have been registered on the ClinicalTrials.gov database with indications including diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disorders, and musculoskeletal symptoms. Initially, it has been postulated that transplanted MSCs exhibit their therapeutic potential through interaction and differentiation into cells and tissues affected by the respective condition. Going even further, several in vitro studies claimed that MSCs can cross the germ layer boundary and give rise to neuronal (ectodermal) and pancreatic islet-like cells (endoderm).

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