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Open Access Research article

Phenotype, donor age and gender affect function of human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cells

Georg Siegel1, Torsten Kluba2, Ursula Hermanutz-Klein1, Karen Bieback3, Hinnak Northoff1 and Richard Schäfer14*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Clinical and Experimental Transfusion Medicine (IKET), University Hospital Tübingen, Otfried-Müller-Strasse 4/1, Tübingen, D-72076, Germany

2 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University Hospital Tübingen, Hoppe-Seyler-Strasse 3, Tübingen, D-72076, Germany

3 Institute of Transfusion Medicine and Immunology, German Red Cross Blood Service of Baden-Württemberg-Hessen, Medical Faculty Mannheim, Heidelberg University, Friedrich-Ebert Strasse 107, Mannheim, D-68167, Germany

4 Department of Neurosurgery, Stanford Institute for Neuro-Innovation and Translational Neurosciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, 1201 Welch Road, Stanford, CA, 94305-5487, USA

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BMC Medicine 2013, 11:146  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-11-146

Published: 11 June 2013



Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) are attractive for cell-based therapies ranging from regenerative medicine and tissue engineering to immunomodulation. However, clinical efficacy is variable and it is unclear how the phenotypes defining bone marrow (BM)-derived MSCs as well as donor characteristics affect their functional properties.


BM-MSCs were isolated from 53 (25 female, 28 male; age: 13 to 80 years) donors and analyzed by: (1) phenotype using flow cytometry and cell size measurement; (2) in vitro growth kinetics using population doubling time; (3) colony formation capacity and telomerase activity; and (4) function by in vitro differentiation capacity, suppression of T cell proliferation, cytokines and trophic factors secretion, and hormone and growth factor receptor expression. Additionally, expression of Oct4, Nanog, Prdm14 and SOX2 mRNA was compared to pluripotent stem cells.


BM-MSCs from younger donors showed increased expression of MCAM, VCAM-1, ALCAM, PDGFRβ, PDL-1, Thy1 and CD71, and led to lower IL-6 production when co-cultured with activated T cells. Female BM-MSCs showed increased expression of IFN-γR1 and IL-6β, and were more potent in T cell proliferation suppression. High-clonogenic BM-MSCs were smaller, divided more rapidly and were more frequent in BM-MSC preparations from younger female donors. CD10, β1integrin, HCAM, CD71, VCAM-1, IFN-γR1, MCAM, ALCAM, LNGFR and HLA ABC were correlated to BM-MSC preparations with high clonogenic potential and expression of IFN-γR1, MCAM and HLA ABC was associated with rapid growth of BM-MSCs. The mesodermal differentiation capacity of BM-MSCs was unaffected by donor age or gender but was affected by phenotype (CD10, IFN-γR1, GD2). BM-MSCs from female and male donors expressed androgen receptor and FGFR3, and secreted VEGF-A, HGF, LIF, Angiopoietin-1, basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) and NGFB. HGF secretion correlated negatively to the expression of CD71, CD140b and Galectin 1. The expression of Oct4, Nanog and Prdm14 mRNA in BM-MSCs was much lower compared to pluripotent stem cells and was not related to donor age or gender. Prdm14 mRNA expression correlated positively to the clonogenic potential of BM-MSCs.


By identifying donor-related effects and assigning phenotypes of BM-MSC preparations to functional properties, we provide useful tools for assay development and production for clinical applications of BM-MSC preparations.

Mesenchymal stromal/stem cells; Age; Gender; Immunomodulation; Phenotype; Differentiation