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Abstract

Migratory capabilities of adult human stem cells are vital for assuring endogenous tissue regeneration and stem cell-based clinical applications. Although human blood serum has been shown to be beneficial for cell migration and proliferation, little is known about its impact on the migratory behavior of cardiac stem cells and underlying signaling pathways. Within this study, we investigated the effects of human blood serum on primary human cardiac stem cells (hCSCs) from the adult heart auricle. On a technical level, we took advantage of a microfluidic cultivation platform, which allowed us to characterize cell morphologies and track migration of single hCSCs via live cell imaging over a period of up to 48 h. Our findings showed a significantly increased migration distance and speed of hCSCs after treatment with human serum compared to control. Exposure of blood serum-stimulated hCSCs to the p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38-MAPK) inhibitor SB239063 resulted in significantly decreased migration. Moreover, we revealed increased phosphorylation of heat shock protein 27 (Hsp27) upon serum treatment, which was diminished by p38-MAPK-inhibition. In summary, we demonstrate human blood serum as a strong inducer of adult human cardiac stem cell migration dependent on p38-MAPK/Hsp27-signalling. Our findings further emphasize the great potential of microfluidic cultivation devices for assessing spatio-temporal migration dynamics of adult human stem cells on a single-cell level.