Homing of mesenchymal stem cells: mechanistic or stochastic? Implications for targeted delivery in arthritis

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are multipotent cells with the capacity to undergo chondrogenic differentiation. Systemically administered MSCs have been shown to preferentially accumulate at sites of tissue damage and inflammation, thus MSC-based therapy holds great promise for the treatment of inflammatory diseases such as RA. Modulation of MSC homing may allow targeted delivery of systemically administered MSCs to damaged articular cartilage, where they can suppress immune-mediated cartilage destruction and contribute to cartilage repair via a combination of chondrogenic differentiation and paracrine stimulation of intrinsic residual repair. To harness the potential of MSC homing, a thorough understanding of the mechanism is key. This review discusses current knowledge of the mechanism of MSC homing to injured/inflamed tissue and its implications for targeted MSC-based therapy in arthritis.