Background: Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC) possess immunomodulatory properties and low immunogenicity, both crucial properties for their development into an effective cellular immunotherapy. They have shown benefit in clinical trials targeting liver diseases; however the efficacy of MSC therapy will benefit from improvement of the immunomodulatory and immunogenic properties of MSC. Methods: MSC derived from human umbilical cords (ucMSC) were treated for 3 days in vitro with various inflammatory factors, interleukins, vitamins and serum deprivation. Their immunogenicity and immunomodulatory capacity were examined by gene-expression analysis, surface-marker expressions, IDO activity, PGE2 secretion and inhibition of T cell proliferation and IFNγ production. Furthermore, their activation of NK cell cytotoxicity was investigated via CD107a expression on NK cells. The immunomodulatory capacity, biodistribution and survival of pre-treated ucMSC were investigated in a CCl4-induced liver disease mouse model. In addition, capacity of pre-treated MSC to ameliorate liver inflammation was examined in an ex vivo liver inflammation co-culture model. Results: IFN-γ and a multiple cytokine cocktail (MC) consisting of IFN-γ, TGFβ and retinoic acid upregulated the expression of immunomodulatory factor PD-L1 and IDO activity. Subsequently, both treatments enhanced the capacity of ucMSC to inhibit CD4 and CD8 T cell proliferation and IFN-γ production. The susceptibility of ucMSC for NK cell lysis was decreased by IFN-β, TGFβ and MC treatment. In vivo, no immunomodulation was observed by the ucMSC. Four hours after intravenous infusion in mice with CCl4-induced inflammatory liver injury, the majority of ucMSC were trapped in the lungs. Rapid clearance of ucMSC(VitB6), ucMSC(Starv + VitB6) and ucMSC(MC) and altered bio-distribution of ucMSC(TGFβ) compared to untreated ucMSC was observed. In the ex vivo co-culture system with inflammatory liver slices ucMSC(MC) showed significantly enhanced modulatory capacity compared to untreated ucMSC. Conclusions: The present study demonstrates the responsiveness of ucMSC to in vitro optimisation treatment. The observed improvements in immunomodulatory capacity as well as immunogenicity after MC treatment may improve the efficacy of ucMSC as immunotherapy targeted towards liver inflammation.

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Stem Cell Research and Therapy

de Witte, S., Merino, A., Franquesa, M., Strini, T., van Zoggel, H., Korevaar, S., … Hoogduijn, M. (2017). Cytokine treatment optimises the immunotherapeutic effects of umbilical cord-derived MSC for treatment of inflammatory liver disease. Stem Cell Research and Therapy, 8(1). doi:10.1186/s13287-017-0590-6