In a groundbreaking study published in “Arthritis Research & Therapy,” researchers from the Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria del Hospital Clínico San Carlos have unveiled critical insights into the behavior of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) under inflammatory conditions, such as those found in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The study, led by Dr. Lamas José Ramon and his team, employed RNA sequencing to analyze the transcriptome of allogeneic MSCs in the face of RA lymphocyte activation, revealing significant alterations in gene expression that block the cells’ regenerative and immunomodulatory functions.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation, pain, and joint destruction. Treatments often include anti-inflammatory drugs and immunosuppressants, but there is a significant interest in developing regenerative therapies to repair damaged tissues. Mesenchymal stem cells have been at the forefront of this research due to their capability to differentiate into various cell types and modulate the immune response.

The researchers conducted RNA-seq analysis of bone marrow-derived MSCs exposed to an inflammatory microenvironment mimicking that of RA. This study marks a crucial leap from traditional gene expression profiling techniques due to the precision and depth of RNA-Seq technology, enabling the quantification of transcript levels in a highly accurate manner.

The findings were significant: under the influence of inflammatory stimuli, there was an upregulation of genes involved in immune response along with a concurrent downregulation of genes associated with cell differentiation roles. Essentially, the data suggests that while MSCs are attempting to resolve the inflammation, their two main functions—stimulating immune system regulation and facilitating tissue regeneration—are impeded.

Dr. Lamas underscored the relevance of their work, stating, “Understanding how MSCs respond to the inflammatory milieu of RA provides critical insights for the development of stem cell therapies. It seems that inflammation, particularly driven by gamma-interferon, signals the MSCs to enter into a defensive state that hinders their therapeutic potential.”

The study’s conclusions have far-reaching implications for regenerative medicine, especially for disorders heavily influenced by the immune system. By comprehending the ways in which MSCs are influenced by their environment, researchers can better strategize how to harness or enhance their capabilities for treating diseases like RA, where both tissue destruction and inflammation are prominent.

The study (DOI: 10.1186/s13075-019-1894-y) was made possible by funding from the Instituto de Salud Carlos III, with support from the European Union. Notably, the authors declared no competing interests, emphasizing the unbiased nature of their research.

As the scientific community continues to decipher the complexities of autoimmune diseases and the potential of stem cell therapy, studies like these offer a beacon of hope for patient-specific treatments that can both manage symptoms and promote tissue healing.

For further reading on similar topics, the following references provide complementary information:

1. Samsonraj, R. M., et al. (2017). “Concise review: Multifaceted characterization of human mesenchymal stem cells for use in regenerative medicine.” Stem Cells Transl Med, 6(12), 2173–2185. DOI: 10.1002/sctm.17-0129.

2. Cagliani, J., et al. (2017). “Immunomodulation by mesenchymal stromal cells and their clinical applications.” J Stem Cell Regen Biol, 3. Available from:

3. Fontaine, M. J., et al. (2016). “Unraveling the mesenchymal stromal cells’ paracrine immunomodulatory effects.” Transfus Med Rev, 30(1), 37–43. DOI: 10.1016/j.tmrv.2015.11.004.

4. Qu, X., et al. (2012). “Mesenchymal stem cells inhibit Th17 cell differentiation by IL-10 secretion.” Exp Hematol, 40(8), 761–770. DOI: 10.1016/j.exphem.2012.05.006.

5. Shin, T.-H., et al. (2016). “Human umbilical cord blood-stem cells direct macrophage polarization and block inflammasome activation to alleviate rheumatoid arthritis.” Cell Death Dis, 7, e2524. DOI: 10.1038/cddis.2016.442.


1. Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment
2. Mesenchymal Stem Cell Therapy
3. Inflammation and MSCs
4. RNA Sequencing in Rheumatology
5. Stem Cell Immunomodulation