• Adult stem cells;
  • Telomere;
  • Telomerase;
  • Real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction;
  • Mesenchymal stem cell;
  • Fetal stem cells


The biological properties of stem cells are key to the success of cell therapy, for which MSC are promising candidates. Although most therapeutic applications to date have used adult bone marrow MSC, increasing evidence suggests that MSC from neonatal and mid-gestational fetal tissues are more plastic and grow faster. Fetal stem cells have been isolated earlier in development, from first-trimester blood and hemopoietic organs, raising the question of whether they are biologically closer to embryonic stem cells and thus have advantages over adult bone marrow MSC. In this study, we show that human first-trimester fetal blood, liver, and bone marrow MSC but not adult MSC express the pluripotency stem cell markers Oct-4, Nanog, Rex-1, SSEA-3, SSEA-4, Tra-1-60, and Tra-1-81. In addition, fetal MSC, irrespective of source, had longer telomeres (p < .001), had greater telomerase activity (p < .01), and expressed more human telomerase reverse transcriptase (p < .01). Fetal MSC were also more readily expandable and senesced later in culture than their adult counterparts (p < .01). Compared with adult MSC, first-trimester fetal tissues constitute a source of MSC with characteristics that appear advantageous for cell therapy.