Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) emerged as a promising therapeutic tool targeting a variety of inflammatory disorders due to their multiple remarkable properties, such as superior immunomodulatory function and tissue-regenerative capacity. Although bone marrow (BM) is a dominant source for adult MSCs, increasing evidence suggests that adipose tissue-derived stem cells (ASCs), which can be easily obtained at a relatively high yield, have potent therapeutic advantages comparable with BM-MSCs. Despite its outstanding benefits in pre-clinical settings, the practical efficacy of ASCs remains controversial since clinical trials with ASC application often resulted in unsatisfactory outcomes. To overcome this challenge, scientists established several strategies to generate highly functional ASCs beyond the naïve cells, including (1) pre-conditioning of ASCs with various stimulants such as inflammatory agents, (2) genetic manipulation of ASCs and (3) modification of culture conditions with three-dimensional (3D) aggregate formation and hypoxic culture. Also, exosomes and other extracellular vesicles secreted from ASCs can be applied directly to recapitulate the beneficial performance of ASCs. This review summarizes the current strategies to improve the therapeutic features of ASCs for successful clinical implementation.
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