Mesenchymal Stem Cells in the Wharton's Jelly of the Human Umbilical Cord



The Wharton's jelly of the umbilical cord contains mucoid connective tissue and fibroblast-like cells. Using flow cytometric analysis, we found that mesenchymal cells isolated from the umbilical cord express matrix receptors (CD44, CD105) and integrin markers (CD29, CD51) but not hematopoietic lineage markers (CD34, CD45). Interestingly, these cells also express significant amounts of mesenchymal stem cell markers (SH2, SH3). We therefore investigated the potential of these cells to differentiate into cardiomyocytes by treating them with 5-azacytidine or by culturing them in cardiomyocyte-conditioned medium and found that both sets of conditions resulted in the expression of cardiomyocyte markers, namely N-cadherin and cardiac troponin I. We also showed that these cells have multilineage potential and that, under suitable culture conditions, are able to differentiate into cells of the adipogenic and osteogenic lineages. These findings may have a significant impact on studies of early human cardiac differentiation, functional genomics, pharmacological testing, cell therapy, and tissue engineering by helping to eliminate worrying ethical and technical issues.