Intravenous delivery of human adipose-derived stromal cells (hASCs) is a promising option for the treatment of ischemia. After delivery, hASCs that reside and persist in the injured extravascular space have been shown to aid recovery of tissue perfusion and function, although low rates of incorporation currently limit the safety and efficacy of these therapies. We submit that a better understanding of the trafficking of therapeutic hASCs through the microcirculation is needed to address this and that selective control over their homing (organ- and injury-specific) may be possible by targeting bottlenecks in the homing process. This process, however, is incredibly complex, which merited the use of computational techniques to speed the rate of discovery. We developed a multicell agent-based model (ABM) of hASC trafficking during acute skeletal muscle ischemia, based on over 150 literature-based rules instituted in Netlogo and MatLab software programs. In silico, trafficking phenomena within cell populations emerged as a result of the dynamic interactions between adhesion molecule expression, chemokine secretion, integrin affinity states, hemodynamics and microvascular network architectures. As verification, the model reasonably reproduced key aspects of ischemia and trafficking behavior including increases in wall shear stress, upregulation of key cellular adhesion molecules expressed on injured endothelium, increased secretion of inflammatory chemokines and cytokines, quantified levels of monocyte extravasation in selectin knockouts, and circulating monocyte rolling distances. Successful ABM verification prompted us to conduct a series of systematic knockouts in silico aimed at identifying the most critical parameters mediating hASC trafficking. Simulations predicted the necessity of an unknown selectin-binding molecule to achieve hASC extravasation, in addition to any rolling behavior mediated by hASC surface expression of CD15s, CD34, CD62e, CD62p, or CD65. In vitro experiments confirmed this prediction; a subpopulation of hASCs slowly rolled on immobilized P-selectin at speeds as low as 2 µm/s. Thus, our work led to a fundamentally new understanding of hASC biology, which may have important therapeutic implications.
Ischemic pathologies, such as acute myocardial infarction and peripheral vascular disease, continue to be associated with high morbidities and mortalities. Recently, therapies wherein adult stem cells are injected into the circulation have been shown to increase blood flow and help to restore tissue function following injury. Pre-clinical animal models and human trials have shown successes utilizing this approach, but variable trafficking efficiencies and low incorporation of cells into the injured tissue severely limit effectiveness and may preclude clinical adoption. To address this, we sought to study the complex process of how injected stem cells traffic through the microcirculation and home to sites of injury, in an effort to identify bottlenecks in this process that could be manipulated for therapeutic gain. We developed an agent-based computer model to speed the rate of discovery, and we identified a key cell–cell adhesion interaction that could be targeted to enhance stem cell homing efficiencies during injectable stem cell therapies.