State Key Laboratory of Military Stomatology & National Clinical Research Center for Oral Diseases & Shaanxi International Joint Research Center for Oral Diseases, Center for Tissue Engineering, School of Stomatology, Fourth Military Medical University, Xi'an, Shaanxi, 710032, China; Research and Development Center for Tissue Engineering, The Fourth Military Medical University, Xi'an, Shaanxi 710032, China. Electronic address: [Email]
Restoration of extensive bone loss and defects remain as an unfulfilled challenge in modern medicine. Given the critical contributions to bone homeostasis and diseases, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have shown great promise to jumpstart and facilitate bone healing, with immense regenerative potential in both pharmacology-based endogenous MSC rescue/mobilization in skeletal diseases and emerging application of MSC transplantation in bone tissue engineering and cytotherapy. However, efficacy of MSC-based bone regeneration was not always achieved; particularly, fulfillment of MSC-mediated bone healing in diseased microenvironments of host comorbidities remains as a major challenge. Indeed, impacts of diseased microenvironments on MSC function rely not only on the dynamic regulation of resident MSCs by surrounding niche to convoy pathological signals of bone, but also on the profound interplay between transplanted MSCs and recipient components that mediates and modulates therapeutic effects on skeletal conditions. Accordingly, novel solutions have recently been developed, including improving resistance of MSCs to diseased microenvironments, recreating beneficial microenvironments to guarantee MSC-based regeneration, and usage of subcellular vesicles of MSCs in cell-free therapies. In this review, we summarize state-of-the-art knowledge regarding applications and challenges of MSC-mediated bone healing, further offering principles and effective strategies to optimize MSC-based bone regeneration in aging and diseases.