Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Donor age and cell passage affects differentiation potential of murine bone marrow-derived stem cells

James D Kretlow14, Yu-Qing Jin24, Wei Liu24, Wen Jie Zhang24, Tan-Hui Hong24, Guangdong Zhou24, L Scott Baggett34, Antonios G Mikos14 and Yilin Cao24*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Bioengineering, Rice University, P.O. Box 1892, MS-142, Houston, TX 77251-1892, USA

2 Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Shanghai 9th People's Hospital, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai Key Tissue Engineering Laboratory, Shanghai, 200011, PR China

3 Department of Statistics, Rice University, P.O. Box 1892, MS-138, Houston, TX 77251-1892,USA

4 National Tissue Engineering Center of China, Shanghai, 200240, PR China

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BMC Cell Biology 2008, 9:60  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-9-60

Published: 28 October 2008



Bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (BMSCs) are a widely researched adult stem cell population capable of differentiation into various lineages. Because many promising applications of tissue engineering require cell expansion following harvest and involve the treatment of diseases and conditions found in an aging population, the effect of donor age and ex vivo handling must be understood in order to develop clinical techniques and therapeutics based on these cells. Furthermore, there currently exists little understanding as to how these two factors may be influenced by one another.


Differences in the adipogenic, chondrogenic, and osteogenic differentiation capacity of murine MSCs harvested from donor animals of different age and number of passages of these cells were observed. Cells from younger donors adhered to tissue culture polystyrene better and proliferated in greater number than those from older animals. Chondrogenic and osteogenic potential decreased with age for each group, and adipogenic differentiation decreased only in cells from the oldest donors. Significant decreases in differentiation potentials due to passage were observed as well for osteogenesis of BMSCs from the youngest donors and chondrogenesis of the cells from the oldest donors.


Both increasing age and the number of passages have lineage dependent effects on BMSC differentiation potential. Furthermore, there is an obvious interplay between donor age and cell passage that in the future must be accounted for when developing cell-based therapies for clinical use.