The regulation of differentiation in mesenchymal stem cells

Andrea Augello, Cosimo De Bari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

284 Citations (Scopus)
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Mesenchymal stromal/stem cells (MSCs) are a population of stromal cells present in the bone marrow and most connective tissues, capable of differentiation into mesenchymal tissues such as bone and cartilage. MSCs are attractive candidates for biological cell-based tissue repair approaches because of their extensive proliferative ability in culture while retaining their mesenchymal multilineage differentiation potential. In addition to its undoubted scientific interest, the prospect of monitoring and controlling MSC differentiation is a crucial regulatory and clinical requirement. Hence, the molecular regulation of MSC differentiation has been extensively studied. Most of the studies are in vitro, because the identity of MSCs in their tissues of origin in vivo remains undefined. This review addresses the current knowledge of the molecular basis of differentiation of cultured MSCs, with a particular focus on chondrogenesis and osteogenesis. Building on the information coming from developmental biology studies of embryonic skeletogenesis, several signaling pathways and transcription factors have been investigated and shown to play critical roles in MSC differentiation. In particular, the Wnt and transforming growth factor-ß/bone morphogenetic protein signaling pathways are well known to modulate in MSCs the molecular differentiation into cartilage and bone. Relevant to the emerging concept of stem cell niches is the demonstration that physical factors can also participate in the regulation of MSC differentiation. Knowledge of the regulation of MSC differentiation will be critical in the design of three-dimensional culture systems and bioreactors for automated bioprocessing through mathematical models applied to systems biology and network science.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1226-1238
Number of pages13
JournalHuman Gene Therapy
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2010


  • animals
  • cell differentiation
  • cells, cultured
  • chondrogenesis
  • gene expression regulation, developmental
  • humans
  • mesenchymal stem cells
  • mice
  • osteogenesis
  • signal transduction
  • transcription factors
  • transforming growth factor beta
  • Wnt proteins


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