Building a consensus regarding the nature and origin of mesenchymal stem cells.
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are believed to be the common precursors to differentiated cell lineages found in bone and bone marrow, including adipocytes, chondrocytes, osteoblasts, and hematopoiesis-supporting stroma. Apart from this fact, most aspects of MSC biology, including their ontogeny, anatomical location in marrow, and in vivo functions remain vague. Attempts to clarify these issues have produced confounding results, principally due to the fact that many researchers employ different methods to culture MSCs, assess their differentiation potential, and evaluate their capacity for self-renewal. Accordingly, the current status of the field appears fragmentary with no clear consensus on how to define the cells. In describing past and present contributions to the field of MSC research, I will demonstrate that the apparent incongruity of the literature is misleading, and that an unbiased interpretation reveals a fairly cohesive picture of MSC biology.