Identification and characterization of a large source of primary mesenchymal stem cells tightly adhered to bone surfaces of human vertebral body marrow cavities

Brian H. Johnstone, Hannah M. Miller, Madelyn R. Beck, Dongsheng Gu, Sreedhar Thirumala, Michael LaFontaine, Gerald Brandacher, Erik J. Woods

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Therapeutic allogeneic mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) are currently in clinical trials to evaluate their effectiveness in treating many different disease indications. Eventual commercialization for broad distribution will require further improvements in manufacturing processes to economically manufacture MSCs at scales sufficient to satisfy projected demands. A key contributor to the present high cost of goods sold for MSC manufacturing is the need to create master cell banks from multiple donors, which leads to variability in large-scale manufacturing runs. Therefore, the availability of large single donor depots of primary MSCs would greatly benefit the cell therapy market by reducing costs associated with manufacturing. Methods: We have discovered that an abundant population of cells possessing all the hallmarks of MSCs is tightly associated with the vertebral body (VB) bone matrix and only liberated by proteolytic digestion. Here we demonstrate that these vertebral bone-adherent (vBA) MSCs possess all the International Society of Cell and Gene Therapy-defined characteristics (e.g., plastic adherence, surface marker expression and trilineage differentiation) of MSCs, and we have therefore termed them vBA-MSCs to distinguish this population from loosely associated MSCs recovered through aspiration or rinsing of the bone marrow compartment. Results: Pilot banking and expansion were performed with vBA-MSCs obtained from 3 deceased donors, and it was demonstrated that bank sizes averaging 2.9 × 108 ± 1.35 × 108 vBA-MSCs at passage 1 were obtainable from only 5 g of digested VB bone fragments. Each bank of cells demonstrated robust proliferation through a total of 9 passages, without significant reduction in population doubling times. The theoretical total cell yield from the entire amount of bone fragments (approximately 300 g) from each donor with limited expansion through 4 passages is 100 trillion (1 × 1014) vBA-MSCs, equating to over 105 doses at 10 × 106 cells/kg for an average 70-kg recipient. Discussion: Thus, we have established a novel and plentiful source of MSCs that will benefit the cell therapy market by overcoming manufacturing and regulatory inefficiencies due to donor-to-donor variability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)617-628
Number of pages12
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2020


  • bone marrow
  • cellular therapy
  • human MSCs
  • large-scale manufacturing
  • regenerative medicine
  • vertebral bodies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Oncology
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Cell Biology
  • Transplantation
  • Cancer Research


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