Soluble factor mediated manipulation of mesenchymal stem cell mechanics for improved function of cell-based therapeutics
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Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are bone marrow derived multipotent cells with the ability to self-renew and differentiate into multiple connective cell lineages. In vivo, MSCs travel from the bone-marrow to the inflammatory sites and actively participate in remodeling and regeneration process under the influence of soluble growth factors. Due to these inherent properties, MSCs have emerged as an ideal candidate for diverse regenerative therapeutic applications. The development of MSC-based therapies requires in vitro expansion of MSCs; however, MSC expansion results in phenotypical changes that have limited its efficacy upon reintroduction in vivo. In order to increase the efficacy of MSC-based therapeutics, it is critical for us to improve the current understanding of MSC interactions with its niche specific factors and explore new methods to enhance MSC function in vivo. We used tumor conditioned media, which contains soluble factors secreted by tumor cells in culture (TCM), and inflammatory niche-specific soluble factors, such as platelet derived growth factor (PDGF) and transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1), to characterize the mechanical response of MSCs. The intracellular mechanical properties of MSCs were dramatically altered in response to soluble factors and MSCs displayed cytosolic stiffening in response to TCM and TGF-β1. Although PDGF treated cells did not elicit any mechanical response, blocking PDGF signaling with a small molecule inhibitor reversed the stiffening response in TGF-β1 treated cells, indicating crosstalk between these two pathways is essential in TGF-β1 mediated cell stiffening. Furthermore, a genome-wide microarray analysis revealed TGF-β1 dependent regulation of cytoskeletal actin-binding protein (ABP) genes. Actin crosslinking and bundling protein genes, which regulate cytosolic rheology through changes in semiflexible actin polymer meshworks, were upregulated with TGF-β1 treatment. Since TGF-β1 treatment profoundly altered the MSC phenotype after relatively short exposure times, we sought to understand if pretreated cells could sustain these enhanced characteristics leading to higher efficacy in vivo. We found that MSCs pretreated with TGF-β1 displayed enhanced adhesive properties while maintaining the expression profile of surface adhesion molecules even after removal of stimulus. Additionally, pretreated MSCs exposed to lineage specific induction media, demonstrated superior differentiation potential along multiple lineages. Based on the large number of sustained changes, TGF-β1 pretreated cells were used to treat full thickness skin wounds for in vivo wound healing model to determine their therapeutic efficacy. TGF-β1 pretreated MSCs increased wound closure rate and displayed enhanced migration of MSCs towards the center of the wound compared to the control cells. In conclusion, soluble factor pretreated MSCs with altered mechanical properties displayed significantly improved cell functions leading to highly efficient tissue regeneration in vivo. Mechanical priming of MSCs with niche specific factors prior to transplantation can become a viable strategy to maximize their therapeutic potential.