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  1. Abstract

    Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) have shown promise in regenerative medicine applications due in part to their ability to modulate immune cells. However, MSCs demonstrate significant functional heterogeneity in terms of their immunomodulatory function because of differences in MSC donor/tissue source, as well as non-standardized manufacturing approaches. As MSC metabolism plays a critical role in their ability to expand to therapeutic numbers ex vivo, we comprehensively profiled intracellular and extracellular metabolites throughout the expansion process to identify predictors of immunomodulatory function (T-cell modulation and indoleamine-2,3-dehydrogenase (IDO) activity). Here, we profiled media metabolites in a non-destructive manner through daily sampling and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), as well as MSC intracellular metabolites at the end of expansion using mass spectrometry (MS). Using a robust consensus machine learning approach, we were able to identify panels of metabolites predictive of MSC immunomodulatory function for 10 independent MSC lines. This approach consisted of identifying metabolites in 2 or more machine learning models and then building consensus models based on these consensus metabolite panels. Consensus intracellular metabolites with high predictive value included multiple lipid classes (such as phosphatidylcholines, phosphatidylethanolamines, and sphingomyelins) while consensus media metabolites included proline, phenylalanine, and pyruvate. Pathway enrichment identified metabolic pathways significantly associated with MSC function such as sphingolipid signaling and metabolism, arginine and proline metabolism, and autophagy. Overall, this work establishes a generalizable framework for identifying consensus predictive metabolites that predict MSC function, as well as guiding future MSC manufacturing efforts through identification of high-potency MSC lines and metabolic engineering.

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  2. Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) have been widely investigated for regenerative medicine applications, from treating various inflammatory diseases as a cell therapy to generating engineered tissue constructs. Numerous studies have evaluated the potential effects of MSCs following therapeutic administration. By responding to their surrounding microenvironment, MSCs may mediate immunomodulatory effects through various mechanisms that directly (i.e., contact-dependent) or indirectly (i.e., paracrine activity) alter the physiology of endogenous cells in various disease pathologies. More specifically, a pivotal crosstalk between MSCs and tissue-resident macrophages and monocytes (TMφ) has been elucidated using in vitro and in vivo preclinical studies. An improved understanding of this crosstalk could help elucidate potential mechanisms of action (MOAs) of therapeutically administered MSCs. TMφ, by nature of their remarkable functional plasticity and prevalence within the body, are uniquely positioned as critical modulators of the immune system – not only in maintaining homeostasis but also during pathogenesis. This has prompted further exploration into the cellular and molecular alterations to TMφ mediated by MSCs. In vitro assays and in vivo preclinical trials have identified key interactions mediated by MSCs that polarize the responses of TMφ from a pro-inflammatory (i.e., classical activation) to a more anti-inflammatory/reparative (i.e., alternative activation) phenotype and function. In this review, we describe physiological and pathological TMφ functions in response to various stimuli and discuss the evidence that suggest specific mechanisms through which MSCs may modulate TMφ phenotypes and functions, including paracrine interactions (e.g., secretome and extracellular vesicles), nanotube-mediated intercellular exchange, bioenergetics, and engulfment by macrophages. Continued efforts to elucidate this pivotal crosstalk may offer an improved understanding of the immunomodulatory capacity of MSCs and inform the development and testing of potential MOAs to support the therapeutic use of MSCs and MSC-derived products in various diseases. 
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