Native and solubilized decellularized extracellular matrix: A critical assessment of their potential for improving the expansion of mesenchymal stem cells

Aida Shakouri-Motlagh, Andrea J. O'Connor, Shaun P. Brennecke, Bill Kalionis, Daniel E. Heath

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


Capturing the promise of mesenchymal stem cell (MSC)-based treatments is currently limited by inefficient production of cells needed for clinical therapies. During conventional ex vivo expansion, a large portion of MSCs lose the properties that make them attractive for use in cell therapies. Decellularized extracellular matrix (dECM) has recently emerged as a promising substrate for the improved expansion of MSCs. MSCs cultured on these surfaces exhibit improved proliferation capacity, maintenance of phenotype, and increased differentiation potential. Additionally, these dECMs can be solubilized and used to coat new cell culture surfaces, imparting key biological properties of the native matrices to other surfaces such as tissue engineering scaffolds. Although this technology is still developing, there is potential for an impact in the fields of MSC biology, biomaterials, tissue engineering, and therapeutics. In this article, we review the role of dECM in MSC expansion by first detailing the decellularization methods that have been used to produce the dECM substrates; discussing the shortcomings of current decellularization methods; describing the improved MSC characteristics obtained when the cells are cultured on these surfaces; and considering the effect of the passage number, age of donor, and dECM preparation method on the quality of the dECM. Finally we describe the critical roadblocks that must be addressed before this technology can fulfil its potential, including elucidating the mechanism by which the dECMs improve the expansion of primary MSCs and the identification of a readily available source of dECM. Statement of Significance Current mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) culture methods result in premature cellular senescence or loss of differentiation potential. This creates a major bottleneck in their clinical application, as prolonged expansion is necessary to achieve clinically relevant numbers of cells. Recently, decellularized extracellular matrix (dECM) produced by primary MSC has emerged as an attractive substrate for the improved expansion of MSC; cells cultured on these surfaces retain their desired stem cell characteristics for prolonged times during culture. This review article describes the inception and development of this dECM-based technology, points out existing challenges that must be addressed, and suggests future directions of research. To our knowledge, this is the first review written on the use of dECM for improved mesenchymal stem cell expansion.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell aging
  • Cell expansion
  • Cell-derived matrix
  • Extracellular matrix (ECM)
  • Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC)
  • Phenotype
  • Transferable matrix

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