What Do Mesenchymal Stem Cells Look Like?

by Chris Centeno, MD /

Receive a Regenexx® Patient Info Packet by email and learn why it's a superior regenerative solution.

We recently invited you into our research lab to learn about colony-forming units (CFUs) and how we use these to roughly quantify mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in a sample. Today we’re going to zoom in much closer on a segment of this process and show you MSCs from the incubation point to how they look in culture on inversion microscopy. So step back into our research lab again (watch the brief video above) and take a peek at mesenchymal stem cells in culture.

What’s Happening in the Video

Before I explain what you’ll see, let’s briefly review how we begin the culturing technique from our “What Is a CFU?” post. We first seed the culture plates with highly diluted bone marrow concentrate (BMC), which contains the mesenchymal stem cells. We place these in an incubator and culture, or grow them for ten days.

As the video above begins, we have some MSCs in culture in the incubator. There are actually a couple vessels in which we can culture cells, and you will see two in our incubator. One is monolayer flask, and the other is a culture plate containing six culture areas called “wells.” So after I pull the plated cells out of the incubator, Dustin, one of our research scientists, puts them under the microscope so we can get a good look at them on the microscope screen using inversion microscopy.

The device Dustin is using here is different from the kind of microscope you used in high school (compound microscope). The traditional scope you’re used to generally needs to stain cells to show anything, a process that can’t be used to observe living cells as the stain might harm or kill the cells. An inverted scope excels at observing cells in culture without staining. In fact, the inverted scope he’s using here is also fitted with a fluorescence function and software so that you can see the parts of a cell and measure changes. For example, we used it in our study of how local anesthetics impact stem cells and measured the calcium stores in the endoplasmic reticulum.

What is Dustin looking at under the scope? The Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) actually adhere to the bottom of the plastic wells, where they grow in culture. Under the microscope and imaged on the screen, you can clearly see what these growing MSCs look like. The simple description is that the MSCs are shaped like a spindle from an old-fashioned spinning wheel. So you’ll see the fatter segment where the nucleus is located and then a tapering off, like the shaft of the spindle, to one side or the other. The scientific description, Dustin explains, is that MSCs are fibroblastic in morphology, essentially appearing elongated and linear.

How We Use Cultured Mesenchymal Stem Cells

In the United States, all of the procedures that use your stem cells require isolation of the stem cell fraction from a tissue, such as the bone marrow, in the same surgical procedure. These procedures usually occur on the same day as the harvest of the stem cells. Obviously this isn’t possible with culturing mesenchymal stem cells as it is a much longer process during which we incubate the cells for 12-21 days, and because the FDA classifies cultured cells as a drug, it is currently illegal to use them here for therapeutic purposes in the U.S. So here, we’re limited to using cultured MSCs for experimental and research purposes only. Outside of the U.S., such as at our licensed Grand Cayman site, we can use cultured MSCs for therapeutic purposes and have done so for many years.

The upshot? I’m a visual learner, so for me, to see first hand, what’s being written about, expands my knowledge. So I hope this peek at MSCs gives you a better understanding of them. Be sure to watch the video above as well as our CFU video to fully enhance your understanding of MSC terminology.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

1 thought on “What Do Mesenchymal Stem Cells Look Like?

  1. Dane

    This lab series is awesome, keep it up!

Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
View Profile

Get Blog Updates by Email

Get fresh updates and insights from Regenexx delivered straight to your inbox.

Regenerative procedures are commonly used to treat musculoskelatal trauma, overuse injuries, and degenerative issues, including failed surgeries.
Select Your Problem Area
Shoulder

Shoulder

Many Shoulder and Rotator Cuff injuries are good candidates for regenerative treatments. Before considering shoulder arthroscopy or shoulder replacement, consider an evaluation of your condition with a regenerative treatment specialist.

  • Rotator Cuff Tears and Tendinitis
  • Shoulder Instability
  • SLAP Tear / Labral Tears
  • Shoulder Arthritis
  • Other Degenerative Conditions & Overuse Injuries
Learn More
Cervical Spine

Spine

Many spine injuries and degenerative conditions are good candidates for regenerative treatments and there are a number of studies showing promising results in treating a wide range of spine problems. Spine surgery should be a last resort for anyone, due to the cascade of negative effects it can have on the areas surrounding the surgery. And epidural steroid injections are problematic due to their long-term negative impact on bone density.

  • Herniated, Bulging, Protruding Discs
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • SI Joint Syndrome
  • Sciatica
  • Pinched Nerves and General Back Pain
  • And more
Learn More
Knee

Knees

Knees are the target of many common sports injuries. Sadly, they are also the target of a number of surgeries that research has frequently shown to be ineffective or minimally effective. Knee arthritis can also be a common cause for aging athletes to abandon the sports and activities they love. Regenerative procedures can be used to treat a wide range of knee injuries and conditions. They can even be used to reduce pain and delay knee replacement for more severe arthritis.

  • Knee Meniscus Tears
  • Knee ACL Tears
  • Knee Instability
  • Knee Osteoarthritis
  • Other Knee Ligaments / Tendons & Overuse Injuries
  • And more
Learn More
Lower Spine

Spine

Many spine injuries and degenerative conditions are good candidates for regenerative treatments and there are a number of studies showing promising results in treating a wide range of spine problems. Spine surgery should be a last resort for anyone, due to the cascade of negative effects it can have on the areas surrounding the surgery. And epidural steroid injections are problematic due to their long-term negative impact on bone density.

  • Herniated, Bulging, Protruding Discs
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • SI Joint Syndrome
  • Sciatica
  • Pinched Nerves and General Back Pain
  • And more
Learn More
Hand & Wrist

Hand & Wrist

Hand and wrist injuries and arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and conditions relating to overuse of the thumb, are good candidates for regenerative treatments. Before considering surgery, consider an evaluation of your condition with a regenerative treatment specialist.
  • Hand and Wrist Arthritis
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Trigger Finger
  • Thumb Arthritis (Basal Joint, CMC, Gamer’s Thumb, Texting Thumb)
  • Other conditions that cause pain
Learn More
Elbow

Elbow

Most injuries of the elbow’s tendons and ligaments, as well as arthritis, can be treated non-surgically with regenerative procedures.

  • Golfer’s elbow & Tennis elbow
  • Arthritis
  • Ulnar collateral ligament wear (common in baseball pitchers)
  • And more
Learn More
Hip

Hip

Hip injuries and degenerative conditions become more common with age. Do to the nature of the joint, it’s not quite as easy to injure as a knee, but it can take a beating and pain often develops over time. Whether a hip condition is acute or degenerative, regenerative procedures can help reduce pain and may help heal injured tissue, without the complications of invasive surgical hip procedures.

  • Labral Tear
  • Hip Arthritis
  • Hip Bursitis
  • Hip Sprain, Tendonitis or Inflammation
  • Hip Instability
Learn More
Foot & Ankle

Foot & Ankle

Foot and ankle injuries are common in athletes. These injuries can often benefit from non-surgical regenerative treatments. Before considering surgery, consider an evaluation of your condition with a regenerative treatment specialist.
  • Ankle Arthritis
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Ligament sprains or tears
  • Other conditions that cause pain
Learn More

Is Regenexx Right For You?

Request a free Regenexx Info Packet

REGENEXX WEBINARS

Learn about the #1 Stem Cell & Platelet Procedures for treating arthritis, common joint injuries & spine pain.

Join a Webinar

RECEIVE BLOG ARTICLES BY EMAIL

Get fresh updates and insights from Regenexx delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to the Blog

FOLLOW US

Copyright © Regenexx 2019. All rights reserved. | Privacy Policy

*DISCLAIMER: Like all medical procedures, Regenexx® Procedures have a success and failure rate. Patient reviews and testimonials on this site should not be interpreted as a statement on the effectiveness of our treatments for anyone else.

Providers listed on the Regenexx website are for informational purposes only and are not a recommendation from Regenexx for a specific provider or a guarantee of the outcome of any treatment you receive.