Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) were named by Dr. Arnold Caplan in his publication titled Mesenchymal Stem Cells, Journal of Orthopedic Research in 19911. MSCs are adult stem cells that can be isolated from different sources including bone marrow, fat/adipose tissue, and umbilical cord tissue. MSCs are able to differentiate into many different types of cells within the body and have a powerful ability to manufacture “bio-drugs” (Caplan MSC as drugstore).
MSCs exist in the body on every single blood vessel and can be isolated from any tissue in the body that is vascularized. Thus, when a blood vessel is broken, inflamed, or involved in a chronic wound, those perivascular (surrounding a blood vessel) cells come off and differentiate into what Dr. Caplan named MSCs2. Scientists have found the greatest concentration of stem cells in the body to be in fat tissue. These cells could then be culture expanded (grown and multiplied) and packaged as doses for administration for conditions such as osteoarthritis and other inflammatory diseases.
MSCs are designed to function at the site where any injury has occurred. They communicate with the immune system instructing it among many things to depress inflammation while also sending the body signals to regenerate healthy tissue and heal. MSCs are masters of producing the factors that make connections between cells so that the body can restore its natural structure and function. The ability of MSCs to regenerate tissue within the body is not because it has the capacity to replicate itself and create another cell but, rather, in its stimulatory effect (function of providing a supportive microenvironment) on the body to naturally regenerate its own cells.
Over thirty years ago, Dr. Caplan coined the term MSCs and since then there have been more than 3,000 clinical trials involving the use of adult stem cells registered in the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry3. Inevitably, there have been successes and failures in this fledging field, but nothing has taken away the novel biological power and promise of MSCs.