The role of mesenchymal stem cells in fracture healing

​Description of Research

The main aim of our research project is to elucidate the role of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and different signaling molecules in fracture healing. MSCs are multipotent cells that can differentiate into e.g. bone, cartilage and muscle and they appear to play an important role in various regenerative processes.

We aim to find out a) how MSCs are activated after fracture; b) which are their interaction mechanisms with e.g. endothelial precursors (EPCs) in angiogenesis and bone formation; c) what is the role of various signaling molecules in these events; and d) how to utilize the interaction mechanisms in the development of better bone tissue engineering applications.

By using cell culture models, we have shown that interactions between MSCs and peripheral blood derived precursor cells are important for bone formation and endothelial differentiation. Some important growth factors and signaling molecules contributing to these effects have furthermore been identified. The data will be combined with clinically relevant patient material in this translational research project.

Osteoporotic fractures are a significant health issue affecting thousands of people ever year. Especially those fractures which do not heal properly are problematic and it has been suggested that cell-based treatment strategies could be helpful in these occasions. MSC-based cell therapies have already been applied in the treatment of experimental and clinical bone defects but the final breakthrough is still missing. If we are able to identify the critical cellular and molecular signaling mechanisms in fracture healing process, the data can be utilized in promoting the bone tissue regeneration.

Members of the research group

Katriina Joensuu, MD, PhD, post-doctoral researcher
Liina Uusitalo-Kylmälä, MSc, PhD student
Matti Mäkelä, BSc, undergraduate student

Selected Publications

Joensuu K, Uusitalo L, Hentunen TA, Heino TJ (2017) Angiogenic potential of human mesenchymal stromal cell and circulating mononuclear cell co-cultures is reflected in the expression profiles of proangiogenic factors leading to endothelial cell and pericyte differentiation. J Tissue Eng Regen Med. 2017 Jun 7. doi: 10.1002/term.2496. [Epub ahead of print]
Heino TJ, Alm JJ, Halkosaari HJ, Välimäki VV (2016) Zoledronic acid in vivo increases in vitro proliferation of rat mesenchymal stromal cells. Acta Orthopaedica 87(4):412-7.
Joensuu K, Uusitalo L, Alm JJ, Aro HT, Hentunen TA, Heino TJ (2015) Enhanced osteoblastic differentiation and bone formation in co-culture of human bone marrow mesenchymal stromal cells and peripheral blood mononuclear cells with exogenic VEGF. Orthopaedics & Traumatology: Surgery & Research 101(3):381-386.
Alm JJ, Heino TJ, Hentunen TA, Väänänen HK, Aro HT (2012) Transient 100 nM dexamethasone treatment reduces inter- and intraindividual variations in osteoblastic differentiation of bone-marrow derived human mesenchymal stem cells. Tissue Engineering Part C Methods. 18(9): 658-66.
Joensuu K, Paatero I, Alm JJ, Elenius K, Aro HT, Heino TJ, Hentunen TA (2011) Interaction between marrow-derived human mesenchymal stem cells and peripheral blood mononuclear cells in endothelial cell differentiation. Scandinavian Journal of Surgery 100(2):216-222.

 Docent Terhi Heino

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