Traumatic wounds with segmental bone defects represent substantial reconstructive challenges. Autologous bone grafting is considered the gold standard for surgical treatment in many cases, but donor site morbidity and associated post-operative complications remain a concern. Advances in regenerative techniques utilizing mesenchymal stem cell populations from bone and adipose tissue have opened the door to improving bone repair in the limbs, spine, and craniofacial skeleton. The widespread availability, ease of extraction, and lack of immunogenicity have made adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs) particularly attractive as a stem cell source for regenerative strategies. Recently it has been shown that small, non-coding miRNAs are involved in the osteogenic differentiation of ASCs. Specifically, microRNAs such as miR-17, miR-23a, and miR-31 are expressed during the osteogenic differentiation of ASCs, and appear to play a role in inhibiting various steps in bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP2) mediated osteogenesis. Importantly, a number of microRNAs including miR-17 and miR-31 that act to attenuate the osteogenic differentiation of ASCs are themselves stimulated by transforming growth factor β-1 (TGFβ-1). In addition, transforming growth factor β-1 is also known to suppress the expression of microRNAs involved in myogenic differentiation. These data suggest that preconditioning strategies to reduce TGFβ-1 activity in ASCs may improve the therapeutic potential of ASCs for musculoskeletal application. Moreover, these findings support the isolation of ASCs from subcutaneous fat depots that tend to have low endogenous levels of TGFβ-1 expression.
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