Migrational changes of mesenchymal stem cells in response to cytokines, growth factors, hypoxia, and aging

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are non-immunogenic, multipotent cells with at least trilineage differentiation potential. They promote wound healing, improve regeneration of injured tissue, and mediate numerous other health effects. MSCs migrate to sites of injury and stimulate repair either through direct differentiation or indirectly through the stimulation of endogenous repair mechanisms. Using the in vitro scratch assay, we show that the inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and growth factors TNF-α, SDF-1, PDGF, and bFGF enhance migration of rat MSCs under normoxic conditions, while TNF-α, IFN-γ, PDGF, and bFGF promote MSC migration under hypoxic conditions. This indicates that the oxygen concentration affects how MSCs will migrate in response to specific factors and, consistent with this, differential expression of cytokines was observed under hypoxic versus normoxic conditions. Using the transwell migration assay, we find that TNF-α, IFN-γ, bFGF, IGF-1, PDGF, and SDF-1 significantly increase transmigration of rat MSCs compared to unstimulated medium. MSCs derived from aged rats exhibited comparable migration to MSCs derived from young rats under hypoxic and normoxic conditions, even after application with specific factors. Similarly, migration in MSCs from aged, human donors did not statistically differ compared to migration in MSCs derived from human umbilical cord tissue or younger donors.