Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), the archetypal multipotent progenitor cells derived in cultures of developed organs, are of unknown identity and native distribution. We have prospectively identified perivascular cells, principally pericytes, in multiple human organs including skeletal muscle, pancreas, adipose tissue, and placenta, on CD146, NG2, and PDGF-Rbeta expression and absence of hematopoietic, endothelial, and myogenic cell markers. Perivascular cells purified from skeletal muscle or nonmuscle tissues were myogenic in culture and in vivo. Irrespective of their tissue origin, long-term cultured perivascular cells retained myogenicity; exhibited at the clonal level osteogenic, chondrogenic, and adipogenic potentials; expressed MSC markers; and migrated in a culture model of chemotaxis. Expression of MSC markers was also detected at the surface of native, noncultured perivascular cells. Thus, blood vessel walls harbor a reserve of progenitor cells that may be integral to the origin of the elusive MSCs and other related adult stem cells.
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