Differences between Stem Cells from the Placenta and Bone Marrow

Fazekasova et al. Mesenchymal stem cells were historically isolated from the bone marrow as an adherent stem cell population capable of “orthodox” differentiation, meaning that they have ability to become bone, cartilage, and fat. Further research revealed that these cells are also capable of “non-orthodox” differentiation, that is, becoming neurons, hepatocytes, insulin producing cells, and lung cells. Given the high number of growth factors secreted by mesenchymal stem cells, numerous companies have sought to develop therapeutic products from mesenchymal stem cells. For example, Osiris Therapeutics has been developing bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells as a treatment for Graft Versus Host Disease. Athersys has been using bone marrow derived mesenchymal-like cells for treatment of heart disease, and Mesoblast has been using these cells for treatment of bone injury.

A new generation of companies has been focusing other mesenchymal-like cells derived from other tissues. For example, Medistem Inc has identified endometrial regenerative cells (ERC), a type of mesenchymal-like stem cell that is found in the endometrium and appears to have higher ability to produce growth factors that stimulate new blood vessel production as compared to other sources of mesenchymal stem cells. General Biotechnology LLC has been developing tooth derived mesenchymal stem cells for treatment of neurological disorders. Celgene has been using placental-derived mesenchymal stem cells for treatment of critical limb ischemia, a disorder associated with poor circulation of the legs.

Given that there appear to be various sources of mesenchymal stem cells, an important question is how do these cells compare when they are used in experiments side by side. In a paper published this month, placental derived and bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells were compared. The scientists found that higher numbers of mesenchymal stem cells could be isolated from the placenta as compared to the bone marrow. Interestingly, placental mesenchymal stem cells were found to be comprised of both fetal and maternal origin.

One of the critical features of mesenchymal stem cells is that they are able to be used without need for matching with the recipient. This is because mesenchymal stem cells are historically known to be “immune privileged”. One of the experiments that the scientists did was to examine whether there is a difference between the bone marrow and placentally derived mesenchymal stem cells in terms of immunogenicity.

Placentally derived mesenchymal stem cells expressed lower levels of the immune stimulatory molecule HLA class I and higher levels of the immune suppressive molecules PDL-1 and CD1a, compared to bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells. However, when both cell types were treated with interferon gamma, the placentally derived mesenchymal became much more immune stimulatory as compared to the bone marrow cells. Furthermore it appeared that direct incubation with T cells resulted in higher T cell stimulation with the placental mesenchymal stem cells as compared to the bone marrow cells. Thus from these data it appears that bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells are more immune privileged as compare to placental derived cells.