The homing of human umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells and the subsequent modulation of macrophage polarization in type 2 diabetic mice

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Umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells (UC-MSCs), with both immunomodulatory and pro-regenerative properties, are promising for the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). As efficient cell therapy largely relies on appropriate homing to target tissues, knowing where and to what extent injected UC-MSCs have homed is critically important. However, bio-distribution data for UC-MSCs in T2DM subjects are extremely limited. Beneficial effects of UC-MSCs on T2DM subjects are associated with increased M2 macrophages, but no systemic evaluation of M2 macrophages has been performed in T2DM individuals. In this study, we treated T2DM mice with CM-Dil-labelled UC-MSCs. UC-MSC infusion not only exerted anti-diabetic effects but also alleviated dyslipidemia and improved liver function in T2DM mice. To compare UC-MSC migration between T2DM and normal subjects, a collection of normal mice also received UC-MSC transplantation. UC-MSCs homed to the lung, liver and spleen in both normal and T2DM recipients. Specifically, the spleen harbored the largest number of UC-MSCs. Unlike normal mice, a certain number of UC-MSCs also homed to pancreatic islets in T2DM mice, which suggested that UC-MSC homing may be closely related to tissue damage. Moreover, the number of M2 macrophages in the islets, liver, fat and muscle significantly increased after UC-MSC infusion, which implied a strong link between the increased M2 macrophages and the improved condition in T2DM mice. Additionally, an M2 macrophage increase was also observed in the spleen, suggesting that UC-MSCs might exert systemic effects in T2DM individuals by modulating macrophages in immune organs.

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