Musculoskeletal diseases with osteochondrotic articular cartilage defects, such as osteoarthritis, are an increasing problem for humans and companion animals which necessitates the development of novel and improved therapeutic strategies. Canine mesenchymal stem cells (cMSCs) offer significant promise as a multipotent source for cell-based therapies and could form the basis for the differentiation and cultivation of tissue grafts to replace damaged tissue. However, no comprehensive analysis has been undertaken to characterize the ultrastructure of in vitro differentiated cMSCs. The main goal of this paper was to focus on cMSCs and to analyse their differentiation capacity. To achieve this aim, bone marrow cMSCs from three canine patients were isolated, expanded in monolayer culture and characterized with respect to their ability for osteogenic, adipogenic and chondrogenic differentiation capacities. cMSCs showed proliferative potential and were capable of osteogenic, adipogenic and chondrogenic differentiation. cMSCs treated with the osteogenic induction medium differentiated into osteoblasts, produced typical bone matrix components, beta1-integrins and upregulated the osteogenic specific transcription factor Cbfa-1. cMSCs treated with the adipogenic induction medium showed typical adipocyte morphology, produced adiponectin, collagen type I and beta1-integrins, and upregulated the adipogenic specific transcription factor PPAR-gamma. cMSCs treated with the chondrogenic induction medium exhibited a round to oval shape, produced a cartilage-specific extracellular matrix, beta1-integrins and upregulated the chondrogenic specific transcription factor Sox9. These results demonstrate, at the biochemical, morphological and ultrastructural levels, the multipotency of cMSCs and thus highlight their potential therapeutic value for cell-based tissue engineering.
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