Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) are multipotent (capable of differentiating into more than one type of new tissue) adult stem cells and are partially defined by their ability to differentiate into tissues including adipose (fat), cartilage and bone cells. The International Society for Cellular Therapy states that MSCs must express certain surface markers: CD90, CD105 and CD73, and lack certain other ones CD45, CD34, CD14 or CD11b, CD79alpha or CD19 and HLA-DR surface molecules. MSCs are traditionally found in bone marrow. However, they can also be isolated from other tissues including human umbilical cord tissue, cord blood, placenta, peripheral blood, and adipose tissue. The other types of stem cells are: embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells.
MSCs play a pivotal role in tissue homeostasis and renewal. As we age, there are less of these available and they live in the bone marrow and fat or adipose tissue. However, they can also be found in the umbilical cords (including the Wharton’s Jelly) and placental tissue.
Given their unique regenerative abilities, stem cells offer new potentials for treating a host of diseases. They have anti-inflammatory properties as well as many other healing effects that make stem cells an exciting non-surgical alternative to treat many disorders, especially sports related injuries and arthritis.
Wharton’s Jelly is a gel-like tissue in the umbilical cord that cushions, supports and protects the umbilical arteries and vein. Wharton’s Jelly may be preferred over amniotic membrane or amniotic fluid in many instances because it contains a higher concentration of long-chain hyaluronic acid, cytokines and growth factors; up to 50 times more. WJ tissue yields the highest concentration of allogeneic MSC’s when compared to adipose tissue.1
Picture caption: Cross-sectional diagram of human umbilical cord showing anatomical compartments, including Wharton’s jelly, as a source of stem cells. Source: Int J Mol Sci 2013 Jun; 14(6) 11692-11712.
1. Vangsness, C. T., Sternberg, H., & Harris, L. (2015). Umbilical Cord Tissue Offers the Greatest Number of Harvestable Mesenchymal Stem Cells for Research and Clinical Application: A Literature Review of Different Harvest Sites. Arthroscopy: The Journal of Arthroscopic & Related Surgery, 31(9), 1836-1843. doi:10.1016/j.arthro.2015.03.014