Background: In most stem cell therapy strategies reported to date, stem cells are introduced to damaged tissue sites to repair and regenerate the original tissue structure and function. MSC therapeutic efficacies are inconsistent, largely attributed to transplanted MSC difficulties both in engrafting at tissue sites and in retaining their therapeutic functions from suspension formulations. MSC functional components, including cell adhesion and cell-cell junction proteins, and ECM that contribute to essential cellular therapeutic effects, are damaged or removed by proteolytic enzymes used in stem cell harvesting strategies from culture. To overcome these limitations, methods to harvest and transplant cells without disrupting critical stem cell functions are required. Cell sheet technology, exploiting temperature-responsive cell culture surfaces, permits cell harvest without cell protein damage. This study is focused on phenotypic traits of MSC sheets structurally and functionally to understand therapeutic benefits of cell sheets. Methods/results: This study verified cleaved cellular proteins (vinculin, fibronectin, laminin, integrin β-1, and connexin 43) and increased apoptotic cell death produced under standard trypsin harvesting treatment in a time-dependent manner. However, MSC sheets produced without trypsin using only temperature-controlled sheet harvest from culture plastic exhibited intact cellular structures. Also, MSCs harvested using enzymatic treatment (i.e., chemical disruption) showed higher pYAP expression compared to MSC sheets. Conclusion: Retention of cellular structures such as ECM, cell-cell junctions, and cell-ECM junctions is correlated with human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cell (hUC-MSC) survival after detachment from cell culture surfaces. Retaining these proteins intact in MSC cultures using cell sheet technology is proposed to enhance stem cell survival and their function in stem cell-based therapy.
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