Metabolic characterization of human adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stromal/stem cells (ASCs) is of importance in stem cell research. The monitoring of the cell status often requires cell destruction. An analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the headspace above cell cultures might be a noninvasive and nondestructive alternative to in vitro analysis. Furthermore, VOC analyses permit new insight into cellular metabolism due to their view on volatile compounds. Therefore, the aim of our study was to compare VOC profiles in the headspace above nondifferentiating and adipogenically differentiating ASCs. To this end, ASCs were cultivated under nondifferentiating and adipogenically differentiating conditions for up to 21 days. At different time points the headspace samples were preconcentrated by needle trap micro extraction and analyzed by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Adipogenic differentiation was assessed at equivalent time points. Altogether the emissions of 11 VOCs showed relevant changes and were analyzed in more detail. A few of these VOCs, among them acetaldehyde, were significantly different in the headspace of adipogenically differentiating ASCs and appeared to be linked to metabolic processes. Furthermore, our data indicate that VOC headspace analysis might be a suitable, noninvasive tool for the metabolic monitoring of (mesenchymal stem) cells in vitro.
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