Umbilical cord-derived Wharton’s jelly for regenerative medicine applications

Background: The last decade has seen an explosion in the interest in using biologics for regenerative medicine applications, including umbilical cord-derived Wharton’s Jelly. There is insufficient literature assessing the amount of growth factors, cytokines, hyaluronic acid, and extracellular vesicles including exosomes in these products. The present study reports the development of a novel Wharton’s jelly formulation and evaluates the presence of growth factors, cytokines, hyaluronic acid, and extracellular vesicles including exosomes.

Methods: Human umbilical cords were obtained from consenting caesarian section donors. The Wharton’s jelly was then isolated from the procured umbilical cord and formulated into an injectable form. Randomly selected samples from different batches were analyzed for sterility testing and to quantify the presence of growth factors, cytokines, hyaluronic acid, and extracellular vesicles.

Results: All samples passed the sterility test. Growth factors including IGFBP 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6, TGF-α, and PDGF-AAwere detected. Several immunomodulatory cytokines, such as RANTES, IL-6R, and IL-16, were also detected. Pro-inflammatory cytokines MCSFR, MIP-1a; anti-inflammatory cytokines TNF-RI, TNF-RII, and IL-1RA; and homeostatic cytokines TIMP-1 and TIMP-2 were observed. Cytokines associated with wound healing, ICAM-1, G-CSF, GDF-15, and regenerative properties, GH, were also expressed. High concentrations of hyaluronic acid were observed. Particles in the extracellular vesicle size range were also detected and were enclosed by the membrane, indicative of true extracellular vesicles.

Conclusion: There are numerous growth factors, cytokines, hyaluronic acid, and extracellular vesicles present in the Wharton’s jelly formulation analyzed. The amount of these factors in Wharton’s jelly is higher compared with other biologics and may play a role in reducing inflammation and pain and augment healing of musculoskeletal injuries.

Keywords: Regenerative medicine, Musculoskeletal injuries, Osteoarthritis, Biologics, Umbilical cord, Wharton’s jelly, Growth factors, cytokines, Hyaluronic acid, Exosomes