Cell-based therapies using bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) for organ regeneration are being pursued for cardiac disease, orthopedic injuries and biomaterial fabrication. The molecular pathways that regulate MSC-mediated regeneration or enhance their therapeutic efficacy are, however, poorly understood. In an attempt to elucidate a way to strengthen the regenerative potential of MSCs, preliminary studies in our lab were performed comparing MSCs isolated from wildtype and regenerative mouse strains. The MRL/MpJ mouse has been described as a “super healer” mouse that is able to repair soft tissue with minimal scaring. MSCs were isolated from the MRL/MpJ mouse (MRL-MSCs) and from C57/Bl6 mice (WT-MSCs) and their differing qualities assessed. Compared to WT-MSCs, MRL-MSCs demonstrated increased proliferation in vitro. We utilized a Poly-vinyl alcohol (PVA) sponge model of repair stimulation to assess their capacity to generate wound repair tissue. We observed that the MRL-MSCs demonstrated increased in vivo engraftment, experimental granulation tissue reconstitution, and tissue vascularity. The MRL-MSCs also reduced infarct size and improved cardiac function as compared to WT-MSCs in a murine acute myocardial infarct model. Genomic and functional analyses indicated a downregulation of the canonical Wnt pathway in MRL-MSCs characterized specifically by upregulation of secreted frizzled related proteins (sFRPs). In vitro proliferation studies confirmed that recombinant sFRP2 mediated enhanced proliferation of both mouse and human MSCs. Based on these observations, we hypothesized that sFRP2 served an important role in MSC-mediated repair and regeneration. We generated WT-MSCs overexpressing sFRP2 (sFRP2-MSCs) by retroviral transduction to test this hypothesis. sFRP2-MSCs maintained their ability for multilineage differentiation in vitro and proliferated faster than the vector only control MSCs (GFP-MSCs). When implanted in vivo in the PVA sponge model, the sFRP2-MSCs recapitulated the MRL phenotype by mediating greater, more vascularized granulation tissue. Moreover, periinfarct intramyocardial injection of sFRP2-MSCs resulted in reduced infarct size, favorable remodeling and better preserved left ventricular function following acute myocardial infarct in mice. These findings implicate sFRP2 as a key molecule for the biogenesis of a superior regenerative phenotype of MSCs.

Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

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