High-throughput assay for the identification of compounds regulating osteogenic differentiation of human mesenchymal stromal cells

H.A.D.C.R. Alves, Koen Dechering, Clemens van Blitterswijk, Jan de Boer

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Human mesenchymal stromal cells are regarded as the golden standard for cell-based therapies. They present multilineage differentiation potential and trophic and immunosuppressive abilities, making them the best candidate for clinical applications. Several molecules have been described to increase bone formation and were mainly discovered by candidate approaches towards known signaling pathways controlling osteogenesis. However, their bone forming potential is still limited, making the search for novel molecules a necessity. High-throughput screening (HTS) not only allows the screening of a large number of diverse chemical compounds, but also allows the discovery of unexpected signaling pathways and molecular mechanisms for a certain application, even without the prior knowledge of the full molecular pathway. Typically HTS is performed in cell lines, however, in this manuscript we have performed a phenotypical screen on more clinically relevant human mesenchymal stromal cells, as a proof of principle that HTS can be performed in those cells and can be used to find small molecules that impact stem cell fate. From a library of pharmacologically active small molecules, we were able to identify novel compounds with increased osteogenic activity. These compounds allowed achieving levels of bone-specific alkaline phosphatase higher than any other combination previously known. By combining biochemical techniques, we were able to demonstrate that a medium to high-throughput phenotypic assay can be performed in academic research laboratories allowing the discovery of novel molecules able to enhance stem cell differentiation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e26678-1-e26678-10
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • IR-80636
  • METIS-283987


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