Enhancement of the immunoregulatory potency of mesenchymal stromal cells by treatment with immunosuppressive drugs

John Girdlestone*, Jeffrey Pido-Lopez, Saket Srivastava, Jianguo Chai, Neil Leaver, Antonio Galleu, Giovanna Lombardi, Cristina V. Navarrete

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    26 Citations (Scopus)
    187 Downloads (Pure)


    Background aims: Multipotent mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) are distinguished by their ability to differentiate into a number of stromal derivatives of interest for regenerative medicine, but they also have immunoregulatory properties that are being tested in a number of clinical settings. Methods: We show that brief incubations with rapamycin, everolimus, FK506 or cyclosporine A increase the immunosuppressive potency of MSCs and other cell types. Results: The treated MSCs are up to 5-fold more potent at inhibiting the induced proliferation of T lymphocytes in vitro. We show that this effect probably is due to adsorption of the drug by the MSCs during pre-treatment, with subsequent diffusion into co-cultures at concentrations sufficient to inhibit T-cell proliferation. MSCs contain measurable amounts of rapamycin after a 15-min exposure, and the potentiating effect is blocked by a neutralizing antibody to the drug. With the use of a pre-clinical model of acute graft-versus-host disease, we demonstrate that a low dose of rapamycin-treated but not untreated umbilical cord-derived MSCs significantly inhibit the onset of disease. Conclusions: The use of treated MSCs may achieve clinical end points not reached with untreated MSCs and allow for infusion of fewer cells to reduce costs and minimize potential side effects.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1188-1199
    Number of pages12
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2015


    • Immunoregulation
    • Immunosuppression
    • Mesenchymal stromal cells
    • Rapamycin
    • Sirolimus


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