Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are of great interest for their use in cell-based therapies due to their multipotent differentiation and immunomodulatory capacities. In consequence of limited numbers following their isolation from the donor tissue, MSCs require extensive expansion performed in traditional 2D cell culture setups to reach adequate amounts for therapeutic use. However, prolonged culture of MSCs in vitro has been shown to decrease their differentiation potential and alter their immunomodulatory properties. For that reason, preservation of these physiological characteristics of MSCs throughout their in vitro culture is essential for improving the efficiency of therapeutic and in vitro modeling applications. With this objective in mind, many studies already investigated certain parameters for enhancing current standard MSC culture protocols with regard to the effects of specific culture media components or culture conditions. Although there is a lot of diversity in the final therapeutic uses of the cells, the primary stage of standard isolation and expansion is imperative. Therefore, we want to review on approaches for optimizing standard MSC culture protocols during this essential primary step of in vitro expansion. The reviewed studies investigate and suggest improvements focused on culture media components (amino acids, ascorbic acid, glucose level, growth factors, lipids, platelet lysate, trace elements, serum, and xenogeneic components) as well as culture conditions and processes (hypoxia, cell seeding, and dissociation during passaging), in order to preserve the MSC phenotype and functionality during the primary phase of in vitro culture.
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