Emerging role of mesenchymal stem cells during tuberculosis: The fifth element in cell mediated immunity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are non-hematopoietic cells that occur in almost all human tissues and can be cultured and expanded to large numbers in vitro. They secrete growth factors, cytokines, and chemokines and express Toll-like receptors on their surface, although multiple cell biological mechanisms remain unclear. MSCs are multi-potent and can differentiate into many cell types including adipocytes, neuronal cells and osteoclasts. Despite gaps in cell biology, because of their immunomodulatory and regenerative capacity, several hundred clinical trials have used MSCs for therapy of cancer, autoimmune diseases and control of inflammation during organ transplantation. MSCs secrete immune-modulatory factors and are able to skew T cell responses and shift M1 to M2 differentiation of macrophages. We review the emerging role of MSCs to act as phagocytes for Mycobacterium tuberculosis and its role during the persistence of M. tuberculosis and spread of infection. Paradoxically, MSCs use innate defense mechanisms of autophagy and nitric oxide to inhibit the growth of intracellular M. tuberculosis. In addition, transplantation with autologous MSCs improved the clinical condition of patients with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. Thus, in addition to the well-known immune defense played by macrophages, DCs, classical T cells and non-classical immune cells, MSCs have emerged as a fifth element capable of regulating immune responses during tuberculosis. We discuss their immunomodulatory properties and innate defense mechanisms in the context of developing immunotherapeutic strategies for tuberculosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S45-S52
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Autophagy
  • Chemokines
  • Cytokines
  • Dormancy
  • Immunopathology
  • Mesenchymal stem cells
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Nitric oxide
  • Tuberculosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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