• Mesenchymal stromal cells;
  • Perinatal cells;
  • Discarded tissue;
  • Stromal cells


Here, the literature was reviewed to evaluate whether a population of mesenchymal stromal cells derived from Wharton's jelly cells (WJCs) is a primitive stromal population. A clear case can be made for WJCs as a stromal population since they display the characteristics of MSCs as defined by the International Society for Cellular Therapy; for example, they grow as adherent cells with mesenchymal morphology, they are self-renewing, they express cell surface markers displayed by MSCs, and they may be differentiated into bone, cartilage, adipose, muscle, and neural cells. Like other stromal cells, WJCs support the expansion of other stem cells, such as hematopoietic stem cells, are well-tolerated by the immune system, and they have the ability to home to tumors. In contrast to bone marrow MSCs, WJCs have greater expansion capability, faster growth in vitro, and may synthesize different cytokines. WJCs are therapeutic in several different pre-clinical animal models of human disease such as neurodegenerative disease, cancer, heart disease, etc. The preclinical work suggests that the WJCs are therapeutic via trophic rescue and immune modulation. In summary, WJCs meet the definition of MSCs. Since WJCs expand faster and to a greater extent than adult-derived MSCs, these findings suggest that WJCs are a primitive stromal cell population with therapeutic potential. Further work is needed to determine whether WJCs engraft long-term and display self-renewal and multipotency in vivo and, as such, demonstrate whether Wharton's jelly cells are a true stem cell population.

Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest is found at the end of this article.