Much of the work conducted on adult stem cells has focused on mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) found within the bone marrow stroma. Adipose tissue, like bone marrow, is derived from the embryonic mesenchyme and contains a stroma that is easily isolated. Preliminary studies have recently identified a putative stem cell population within the adipose stromal compartment. This cell population, termed processed lipoaspirate (PLA) cells, can be isolated from human lipoaspirates and, like MSCs, differentiate toward the osteogenic, adipogenic, myogenic, and chondrogenic lineages. To confirm whether adipose tissue contains stem cells, the PLA population and multiple clonal isolates were analyzed using several molecular and biochemical approaches. PLA cells expressed multiple CD marker antigens similar to those observed on MSCs. Mesodermal lineage induction of PLA cells and clones resulted in the expression of multiple lineage-specific genes and proteins. Furthermore, biochemical analysis also confirmed lineage-specific activity.
In addition to mesodermal capacity, PLA cells and clones differentiated into putative neurogenic cells, exhibiting a neuronal-like morphology and expressing several proteins consistent with the neuronal phenotype. Finally, PLA cells exhibited unique characteristics distinct from those seen in MSCs, including differences in CD marker profile and gene expression.