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Mesenchymal stem cells in regenerative medicine applied to rheumatic diseases: Role of secretome and exosomes

Over the last decades, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been extensively studied with regard to their potential applications in regenerative medicine. In rheumatic diseases, MSC-based therapy is the subject of great expectations for patients who are refractory to proposed treatments such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or display degenerative injuries without possible curative treatment, such as osteoarthritis (OA). The therapeutic potential of MSCs has been demonstrated in several pre-clinical models of OA or RA and both the safety and efficacy of MSC-based therapy is being evaluated in humans. The predominant mechanism by which MSCs participate to tissue repair is through a paracrine activity. Via the production of a multitude of trophic factors with various properties, MSCs can reduce tissue injury, protect tissue from further degradation and/or enhance tissue repair. However, a thorough in vivo examination of MSC-derived secretome and strategies to modulate it are still lacking. The present review discusses the current understanding of the MSC secretome as a therapeutic for treatment of inflammatory or degenerative pathologies focusing on rheumatic diseases. We provide insights on and perspectives for future development of the MSC secretome with respect to the release of extracellular vesicles that would have certain advantages over injection of living MSCs or administration of a single therapeutic factor or a combination of factors.