Human Umbilical Cord Matrix Stem Cells: Preliminary Characterization and Effect of Transplantation in a Rodent Model of Parkinson's Disease



The umbilical cord contains an inexhaustible, noncontroversial source of stem cells for therapy. In the U.S., stem cells found in the umbilical cord are routinely placed into bio-hazardous waste after birth. Here, stem cells derived from human umbilical cord Wharton's Jelly, called umbilical cord matrix stem (UCMS) cells, are characterized. UCMS cells have several properties that make them of interest as a source of cells for therapeutic use. For example, they 1) can be isolated in large numbers, 2) are negative for CD34 and CD45, 3) grow robustly and can be frozen/thawed, 4) can be clonally expanded, and 5) can easily be engineered to express exogenous proteins. UCMS cells have genetic and surface markers of mesenchymal stem cells (positive for CD10, CD13, CD29, CD44, and CD90 and negative for CD14, CD33, CD56, CD31, CD34, CD45, and HLA-DR) and appear to be stable in terms of their surface marker expression in early passage (passages 4–8). Unlike traditional mesenchymal stem cells derived from adult bone marrow stromal cells, small populations of UCMS cells express endoglin (SH2, CD105) and CD49e at passage 8. UCMS cells express growth factors and angiogenic factors, suggesting that they may be used to treat neurodegenerative disease. To test the therapeutic value of UCMS cells, undifferentiated human UCMS cells were transplanted into the brains of hemiparkinsonian rats that were not immune-suppressed. UCMS cells ameliorated apomorphine-induced rotations in the pilot test. UCMS cells transplanted into normal rats did not produce brain tumors, rotational behavior, or a frank host immune rejection response. In summary, the umbilical cord matrix appears to be a rich, noncontroversial, and inexhaustible source of primitive mesenchymal stem cells.