Background: Adipose-derived stem cells (ADSCs), a subpopulation of mesenchymal stem cells, are characterized by their potential to differentiate into multiple cell lineages. Due to their abundance and relative ease of procurement, ADSCs are widely used for tissue repair and regeneration. However, the molecular mechanisms of the therapeutic effect of ADSCs remain unknown. Methods: MicroRNAs have emerged as important signaling molecules in skin wound healing, and their roles in ADSC-based therapies must be addressed. Here, we investigated the potential of ADSCs in improving cutaneous wound healing in vitro and in vivo. Results: We simulated the microenvironment of the wound site by coculturing human dermal fibroblasts (HDFs) with ADSCs. We found that cocultured HDFs expressed significantly higher levels of miR-29b and miR-21 and had higher proliferation and migration rates than ADSCs cultured without HDFs. Moreover, increased expression of Collagen Type I Alpha 1 Chain (COL1A1), Collagen Type III Alpha 1 Chain (COL3A1), alpha-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and Phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K), p-Akt and decreased expression of Phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) and matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-1 was detected, suggesting extracellular remodeling and fibroblast activation and proliferation. We validated the in vitro results by using a rodent skin excisional wound model and implanted ADSC sheets in the wound. Compared with the controls, wounds implanted with ADSC sheets had significantly higher rates of wound-closure; increased expression of α-SMA, VEGF, PI3k, PTEN, COL1A1, and COL3A1; decreased expression of PTEN and MMP1; and upregulated levels of miR-29b and miR-21 in the skin. Conclusion: In summary, we evidenced that ADSCs facilitate the increase in miR-29b and miR-21 levels and promote the activation and proliferation of dermal fibroblasts and extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling, with the associated release of VEGF. Thus, the ADSC-mediated increase in microRNAs is essential in tissue repair and has a therapeutic potential in cutaneous wound healing.
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