Adipose-derived stem cells from obese donors polarize macrophages and microglia toward a pro-inflammatory phenotype

Mark A.A. Harrison, Rachel M. Wise, Brooke P. Benjamin, Emily M. Hochreiner, Omair A. Mohiuddin, Bruce A. Bunnell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Macrophages and microglia represent the primary phagocytes and first line of defense in the peripheral and central immune systems. They activate and polarize into a spectrum of pro-and anti-inflammatory phenotypes in response to various stimuli. This activation is tightly regulated to balance the appropriate immune response with tissue repair and homeostasis. Disruption of this balance results in inflammatory disease states and tissue damage. Adipose stem cells (ASCs) have great therapeutic potential because of the potent immunomodulatory capabilities which induce the polarization of microglia and macrophages to the anti-inflammatory, M2, phenotype. In this study, we examined the effects of donor heterogeneity on ASC function. Specifically, we investigated the impact of donor obesity on ASC stemness and immunomodulatory abilities. Our findings revealed that ASCs from obese donors (ObASCs) exhibited reduced stem cell characteristics when compared to ASCs from lean donors (LnASCs). We also found that ObASCs promote a pro-inflammatory phenotype in murine macrophage and microglial cells, as indicated by the upregulated expression of pro-inflammatory genes, increased nitric oxide pathway activity, and impaired phagocytosis and mi-gration. These findings highlight the importance of considering individual donor characteristics such as obesity when selecting donors and cells for use in ASC therapeutic applications and regenerative medicine.

Original languageEnglish
Article number26
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Adipose stem cells (ASCs)
  • Adipose tissue
  • Immunomodulation
  • Inflammation
  • Macrophage
  • Microglia
  • Obesity
  • Polarization


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