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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Age-related changes in rat bone-marrow mesenchymal stem cell plasticity

Faizal Z Asumda1 and P Bryant Chase12*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Molecular Biophysics, Florida State University, Tallahassee, USA

2 Department of Biological Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, USA

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BMC Cell Biology 2011, 12:44  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-12-44

Published: 12 October 2011



The efficacy of adult stem cells is known to be compromised as a function of age. This therefore raises questions about the effectiveness of autologous cell therapy in elderly patients.


We demonstrated that the expression profile of stemness markers was altered in BM-MSCs derived from old rats. BM-MSCs from young rats (4 months) expressed Oct-4, Sox-2 and NANOG, but we failed to detect Sox-2 and NANOG in BM-MSCs from older animals (15 months). Chondrogenic, osteogenic and adipogenic potential is compromised in old BM-MSCs. Stimulation with a cocktail mixture of bone morphogenetic protein (BMP-2), fibroblast growth factor (FGF-2) and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) induced cardiomyogenesis in young BM-MSCs but not old BM-MSCs. Significant differences in the expression of gap junction protein connexin-43 were observed between young and old BM-MSCs. Young and old BM-MSCs fused with neonatal ventricular cardiomyocytes in co-culture and expressed key cardiac transcription factors and structural proteins. Cells from old animals expressed significantly lower levels of VEGF, IGF, EGF, and G-CSF. Significantly higher levels of DNA double strand break marker γ-H2AX and diminished levels of telomerase activity were observed in old BM-MSCs.


The results suggest age related differences in the differentiation capacity of BM-MSCs. These changes may affect the efficacy of BM-MSCs for use in stem cell therapy.