ASCs derived from burn patients are more prone to increased oxidative metabolism and reactive oxygen species upon passaging

David M. Burmeister*, Grace Chu Yuan Chu, Tony Chao, Tiffany C. Heard, Belinda I. Gómez, Linda E. Sousse, Shanmugasundaram Natesan, Robert J. Christy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Patients with severe burn injury (over 20% of the total body surface area) experience profound hypermetabolism which significantly prolongs wound healing. Adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs) have been proposed as an attractive solution for treating burn wounds, including the potential for autologous ASC expansion. While subcutaneous adipocytes display an altered metabolic profile post-burn, it is not known if this is the case with the stem cells associated with the adipose tissue. Methods: ASCs were isolated from discarded burn skin of severely injured human subjects (BH, n = 6) and unburned subcutaneous adipose tissue of patients undergoing elective abdominoplasty (UH, n = 6) and were analyzed at passages 2, 4, and 6. Flow cytometry was used to quantify ASC cell surface markers CD90, CD105, and CD73. Mitochondrial abundance and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production were determined with MitoTracker Green and MitoSOX Red, respectively, while JC-10 Mitochondrial Membrane Potential Assays were also performed. Mitochondrial respiration and glycolysis were analyzed with a high-resolution respirometer (Seahorse XFe24 Analyzer). Results: There was no difference in age between BH and UH (34 ± 6 and 41 ± 4 years, respectively, P = 0.49). While passage 2 ASCs had lower ASC marker expression than subsequent passages, there were no significant differences in the expression between BH and UH ASCs. Similarly, no differences in mitochondrial abundance or membrane potential were found amongst passages or groups. Two-way ANOVA showed a significant effect (P < 0.01) of passaging on mitochondrial ROS production, with increased ROS in BH ASCs at later passages. Oxidative phosphorylation capacities (leak and maximal respiration) increased significantly in BH ASCs (P = 0.035) but not UH ASCs. On the contrary, basal glycolysis significantly decreased in BH ASCs (P = 0.011) with subsequent passaging, but not UH ASCs. Conclusions: In conclusion, ASCs from burned individuals become increasingly oxidative and less glycolytic upon passaging when compared to ASCs from unburned patients. This increase in oxidative capacities was associated with ROS production in later passages. While the autologous expansion of ASCs holds great promise for treating burned patients with limited donor sites, the potential negative consequences of using them require further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number270
JournalStem Cell Research and Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Adipose stem cells
  • Burn
  • Glycolysis
  • Mitochondria
  • Oxidative phosphorylation
  • ROS
  • Respirometry


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