MMP13 and TIMP1 are functional markers for two different potential modes of action by mesenchymal stem/stromal cells when treating osteoarthritis

Anna Salerno, Kyla Brady, Margot Rikkers, Chao Li, Eva Caamano-Gutierrez, Francesco Falciani, Ashley W Blom, Michael R Whitehouse, Anthony Hollander*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
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Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been investigated as a potential injectable therapy for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis, with some evidence of success in preliminary human trials. However, optimisation and scale-up of this therapeutic approach depends on the identification of functional markers that are linked to their mechanism of action. One possible mechanism is through their chondrogenic differentiation and direct role in neocartilage synthesis. Alternatively, they could remain undifferentiated and act through the release of trophic factors that stimulate endogenous repair processes within the joint. Here, we show that extensive in vitro ageing of bone-marrow-derived human MSCs leads to loss of chondrogenesis but no reduction in trophic repair, thereby separating out the two modes of action. By integrating transcriptomic and proteomic data using Ingenuity Pathway Analysis, we found that reduced
chondrogenesis with passage is linked to downregulation of the FOXM1 signalling pathway whilst maintenance of trophic repair is linked to CXCL12. In an attempt at developing functional markers of MSC potency, we identified loss of mRNA
expression for MMP13 as correlating with loss of chondrogenic potential of MSCs and continued secretion of high levels of TIMP1 protein as correlating with the maintenance of trophic repair capacity. Since an allogeneic injectable OA therapy would require extensive cell expansion in vitro, we conclude that early passage MMP13+, TIMP1-secretinghigh MSCs should be used for autologous OA therapies designed to act through engraftment and chondrogenesis, whilst later passage MMP13-, TIMP1-secretinghigh MSCs could be exploited for allogeneic OA therapies designed to act through trophic repair.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalStem Cells
Early online date11 Jul 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Jul 2020


  • Mesenchymal stem cells
  • chondrogenesis
  • trophic repair
  • MMP13
  • TIMP1


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