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Meta-analysis of preclinical studies of mesenchymal stromal cells to treat rheumatoid arthritis



This study aims to evaluate the quality of preclinical data, determine the effect sizes, and identify experimental measures that inform efficacy using mesenchymal stromal (or stem) cells (MSC) therapy in animal models of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).


Literature searches were performed on MSC preclinical studies to treat RA. MSC treatment effect sizes were determined by the most commonly used outcome measures, including paw thickness, clinical score, and histological score.


A total of 48 studies and 94 treatment arms were included, among which 42 studies and 79 treatment arms reported that MSC improved outcomes. The effect sizes of RA treatments using MSC, when compared to the controls, were: paw thickness was ameliorated by 53.6% (95% confidence interval (CI): 26.7% -80.4%), histological score was decreased by 44.9% (95% CI: 33.3% -56.6%), and clinical score was decreased by 29.9% (95% CI: 16.7% -43.0%). Specifically, our results indicated that human umbilical cord derived MSC led to large improvements of the clinical score (-42.1%) and histological score (-51.4%).


To the best of our knowledge, this meta-analysis is to quantitatively answer whether MSC represent a robust RA treatment in animal models. It suggests that in preclinical studies, MSC have consistently exhibited therapeutic benefits. The findings demonstrate a need for considering variations in different animal models and treatment protocols in future studies using MSC to treat RA in humans to maximise the therapeutic gains in the era of precision medicine.


NIH [1DP2CA195763], Baylx Inc.: BI-206512, NINDS/NIH Training Grant [Award# NS082174].

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