Stem cell research & therapy

Human mesenchymal stem cells possess different biological characteristics but do not change their therapeutic potential when cultured in serum free medium.

PMID 25476802


Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are widely investigated in clinical researches to treat various diseases. Classic culture medium for MSCs, even for clinical use, contains fetal bovine serum. The serum-containing medium (SCM) seems a major obstacle for MSCs-related therapies due to the risk of contamination of infectious pathogens. Some studies showed that MSCs could be expanded in serum free medium (SFM); however, whether SFM would change the biological characteristics and safety issues of MSCs has not been well answered. Human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells (hUC-MSCs) were cultured in a chemical defined serum free medium. Growth, multipotency, surface antigen expression, telomerase, immunosuppressive ability, gene expression profile and genomic stability of hUC-MSCs cultured in SFM and SCM were analyzed and compared side by side. hUC-MSCs propagated more slowly and senesce ultimately in SFM. SFM-expanded hUC-MSCs were different from SCM-expanded hUC-MSCs in growth rate, telomerase, gene expression profile. However, SFM-expanded hUC-MSCs maintained multipotency and the profile of surface antigen which were used to define human MSCs. Both SFM- and SCM-expanded hUC-MSCs gained copy number variation (CNV) in long-term in vitro culture. hUC-MCSs could be expanded in SFM safely to obtain enough cells for clinical application, meeting the basic criteria for human mesenchymal stem cells. hUC-MSCs cultured in SFM were distinct from hUC-MSCs cultured in SCM, yet they remained therapeutic potentials for future regenerative medicine.