Umbilical cord as a long-term source of activatable mesenchymal stromal cells for immunomodulation.
BACKGROUND:Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) are used in over 800 clinical trials mainly due to their immune inhibitory activity. Umbilical cord (UC), the second leading source of clinically used MSCs, is usually cut in small tissue pieces. Subsequent cultivation leads to a continuous outgrowth of MSC explant monolayers (MSC-EMs) for months. Currently, the first MSC-EM culture takes approximately 2 weeks to grow out, which is then expanded and applied to patients. The initiating tissue pieces are then discarded. However, when UC pieces are transferred to new culture dishes, MSC-EMs continue to grow out. In case the functional integrity of these cells is maintained, later induced cultures could also be expanded and used for cell therapy. This would drastically increase the number of available cells for each patient. To test the functionality of MSC-EMs from early and late induction time points, we compared the first cultures to those initiated after 2 months by investigating their clonality and immunomodulatory capacity. METHODS:We analyzed the clonal composition of MSC-EM cultures by umbilical cord piece transduction using integrating lentiviral vectors harboring genetic barcodes assessed by high-throughput sequencing. We investigated the transcriptome of these cultures by microarrays. Finally, the secretome was analyzed by multiplexed ELISAs, in vitro assays, and in vivo in mice. RESULTS:DNA barcode analysis showed polyclonal MSC-EMs even after months of induction cycles. A transcriptome and secretome analyses of early and late MSC cultures showed only minor changes over time. However, upon activation with TNF-α and IFN-γ, cells from both induction time points produced a multitude of immunomodulatory cytokines. Interestingly, the later induced MSC-EMs produced higher amounts of cytokines. To test whether the different cytokine levels were in a therapeutically relevant range, we used conditioned medium (CM) in an in vitro MLR and an in vivo killing assay. CM from late induced MSC-EMs was at least as immune inhibitory as CM from early induced MSC-EMs. CONCLUSION:Human umbilical cord maintains a microenvironment for the long-term induction of polyclonal and immune inhibitory active MSCs for months. Thus, our results would offer the possibility to drastically increase the number of therapeutically applicable MSCs for a substantial amount of patients.