Comparative Analysis of Human Adipose-Derived Stromal/Stem Cells and Dermal Fibroblasts

Fabiana Zanata, Lowry Curley, Elizabeth Martin, Annie Bowles, Bruce A. Bunnell, Xiying Wu, Lydia Masako Ferreira, Jeffrey M. Gimble

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Dermal fibroblasts (DFs) share several qualities with mesenchymal stem cell/multipotent stromal cells (MSCs) derived from various tissues, including adipose-derived stromal/stem cells (ASCs). ASCs and DFs are morphologically comparable and both cell types can be culture expanded through the utilization of their plastic-adherence properties. Despite these similar characteristics, numerous studies indicate that ASC and DF display distinct therapeutic benefits in clinical applications. To more accurately distinguish between these cell types, human DFs and ASCs isolated from three individual donors were analyzed for multipotency and cell surface marker expressions. The detection of cell surface markers, CD29, CD34, CD44, CD73, CD90, and CD105, were used for phenotypic characterization of the DFs and ASCs. Furthermore, both cell types underwent lineage differentiation based on histochemical staining and the expression of adipogenic related genes, CCAAT/Enhancer-Binding Protein alpha (CEBPα), Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ), UCP1, Leptin (LEP), and Adiponectin (ADIPOQ); and osteogenic related genes, Runt related transcription factor 2 (Runx2), Alkaline phosphatase (ALPL), Osteocalcin (OCN), and Osteopontin (OPN). Evidence provided by this study demonstrates similarities between donor-matched ASC and DF with respect to morphology, surface marker expression, differentiation potential, and gene expression, although appearance of enhanced adipogenesis in the ASC based solely on spectrophotometric analyses with no significant difference in real-time polymerase chain reaction detection of adipogenic biomarkers. Thus, there is substantial overlap between the ASC and DF phenotypes based on biochemical and differentiation metrics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1171-1178
Number of pages8
JournalStem Cells and Development
Issue number23
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2021


  • adipose-derived stem cells
  • dermal fibroblast
  • human adipose tissue
  • human skin


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