The human umbilical cord (UC) is an attractive source of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) with unique advantages over other MSC sources. They have been isolated from different compartments of the UC but there has been no rigorous comparison to identify the compartment with the best clinical utility. This study compared the histology, fresh and cultured cell numbers, morphology, proliferation, viability, stemness characteristics and differentiation potential of cells from the amnion (AM), subamnion (SA), perivascular (PV), Wharton’s jelly (WJ) and mixed cord (MC) of five UCs.

Taken together, it appears that MSCs from the Wharton’s jelly are more superior than those from the PV, SA, AM and MC in terms of clinical utility and research value because: (i) their isolation is simple, quick and easy to standardize, (ii) they have lesser non-stem cell contaminants (iii) they are rich in stemness characteristics, (iv) they can be generated in large numbers with minimal manipulation, (v) they are proliferative and (vi) have broad and efficient differentiation potential.  They will thus be stable and attractive candidates for research and future cell-based therapies when derived, propagated and characterized correctly.

The results of this study show that when isolating MSCs from the umbilical cord, the Wharton’s jelly should be the preferred compartment, and a standardized method of derivation must be used so as to make meaningful comparisons of data between research groups.

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