Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been successfully isolated from a broad range of adult, fetal and other non-embryonic tissues. Fetal lung has been identified as a rich source of MSCs capable of differentiating into multilineage cells of mesenchymal origin. However, the biological characteristics and differentiation potential of fetal lung MSCs remain to be explored. In this study, we have established a series of methods for isolation and expansion of fetal lung MSCs. These MSCs could withstand 40 passages without obvious decline in proliferation ability, significant changes in morphology and expression of cell markers. Cell cycle analysis revealed that when the MSCs reached their log phase of growth, more than 90% of the cells were in G0-G1 phase while the proportion of cells in S phase and G2-M phase were about 5.56% and 2.08% cells individually. Flow cytometric analysis showed that fetal lung MSCs expressed CD13, CD29, CD44, CD90, CD105, D117, CD166 and HLA-ABC, but not CD14, CD31, CD34, CD38, CD41a, CD42b, CD45, CD49d, CD61, CD106, CD133 and HLA-DR. These MSCs could differentiate into neural cells in addition to their mesenchymal differentiation potential. Our data suggest that the fetal lung MSC population is an alternative source of stem cells for cell-based therapy of neurological defects or mesenchymal originated diseases.

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