Stem Cells’ Consumption of ‘Sweets’ Helps Them Fight Inflammation

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A new study published in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine shows that the energy metabolism of human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) can be targeted to increase their ability to enhance tissue regeneration.

A new study published in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine shows that the energy metabolism of human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) can be targeted to increase their ability to enhance tissue regeneration. The study offers a strategy that has immediate translational potential for improving hMSCs’ therapeutic success.

hMSCs have gained significant interest as an “off-the-shelf” product for cell therapy in various types of diseases. Recent findings suggest that instead of replacing damaged cells through differentiation, as initially thought, hMSCs promote tissue regeneration by coordinating multiple components of the host immune system via the release of immunomodulatory factors. Therefore, understanding the mechanism underpinning hMSC immune polarization and secretory function is critical to enhancing their therapeutic outcome.

In the study in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine, a research team led by Teng Ma, Ph.D., a Florida State University researcher at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering reported that hMSC energy metabolism plays a central role in regulating their immunosuppressive properties, which is the focus of current investigations in hMSC clinical applications.

“While the critical role energy metabolism plays in modulating and potentially dictating immune cell function is clearly established, we investigated whether energy metabolism plays a similar role promoting hMSCs’ anti-inflammatory properties in response to inflammatory stimuli,” Dr. Ma said. “We found that, in the presence of these stimuli, hMSCs reconfigure their energy metabolism toward a primarily glycolytic phenotype and that these metabolic changes are required to support the production of the key immunosuppressive cytokines.”

What this means is that increased glucose uptake and consumption enhance the immunosuppressive effects of hMSCs, suggesting their energy consumption can be targeted to augment hMSCs’ therapeutic outcome.

“Preserving hMSCs’ therapeutic potential is a critical barrier in the translation of hMSC to clinical applications, so this study provides a sound scientific basis for the development of a novel approach to enhance the therapeutic potential of hMSCs,” Dr. Ma added.

The work is a collaboration with Tim Logan, Ph.D., a biochemist at FSU.    

“The immunomodulatory properties of human mesenchymal stem cells have attracted significant interest in clinical applications,” said Anthony Atala M.D., Editor-in-Chief of STEM CELLS Translational Medicine and director of the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine. “This study offers a strategy that has immediate translational potential for controlling their specific immunomodulatory properties and therefore improve their therapeutic efficacy. We look forward to seeing the progression of this research.”

The full article, “Commitment to Aerobic Glycolysis Sustains Immunosuppression of Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells,” can be accessed at

About STEM CELLS Translational Medicine: STEM CELLS Translational Medicine (SCTM), published by AlphaMed Press, is a monthly peer-reviewed publication dedicated to significantly advancing the clinical utilization of stem cell molecular and cellular biology. By bridging stem cell research and clinical trials, SCTM will help move applications of these critical investigations closer to accepted best practices. SCTM is the official journal partner of Regenerative Medicine Foundation.

About AlphaMed Press: Established in 1983, AlphaMed Press with offices in Durham, NC, San Francisco, CA, and Belfast, Northern Ireland, publishes two other internationally renowned peer-reviewed journals: STEM CELLS® (, celebrating its 36th year, is the world's first journal devoted to this fast paced field of research. The Oncologist® (, also a monthly peer-reviewed publication, entering its 23rd year, is devoted to community and hospital-based oncologists and physicians entrusted with cancer patient care. All three journals are premier periodicals with globally recognized editorial boards dedicated to advancing knowledge and education in their focused disciplines.

About Wiley: Wiley, a global company, helps people and organizations develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. Our online scientific, technical, medical and scholarly journals, combined with our digital learning, assessment and certification solutions, help universities, learned societies, businesses, governments and individuals increase the academic and professional impact of their work. For more than 200 years, we have delivered consistent performance to our stakeholders. The company's website can be accessed at

About Regenerative Medicine Foundation (RMF): The non-profit Regenerative Medicine Foundation fosters strategic collaborations to accelerate the development of regenerative medicine to improve health and deliver cures. RMF pursues its mission by producing its flagship World Stem Cell Summit, honouring leaders through the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Action Awards, and promoting educational initiatives.

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Chelsea Kekahuna
AlphaMed Press
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