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Stem Cells Dev. 2010 Apr;19(4):423-38. doi: 10.1089/scd.2009.0299.

New emerging potentials for human Wharton's jelly mesenchymal stem cells: immunological features and hepatocyte-like differentiative capacity.

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Sezione di Anatomia Umana, Dipartimento di Medicina Sperimentale, Università degli Studi di Palermo, Italy.


In recent years, human mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) have been extensively studied. Their key characteristics of long-term self-renewal and a capacity to differentiate into diverse mature tissues favor their use in regenerative medicine applications. Stem cells can be found in embryonic and extraembryonic tissues as well as in adult organs. Several reports indicate that cells of Wharton's jelly (WJ), the main component of umbilical cord extracellular matrix, are multipotent stem cells, expressing markers of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (BM-MSC), and giving rise to different cellular types of both connective and nervous tissues. Wharton's jelly mesenchymal stem cells (WJ-MSC) express markers previously characterized in embryonic stem cells (ESC), such as Nanog and Oct3/4A. WJ-MSC further emerge as promising hypoimmunogenic cells, due to the expression of molecules able to modulate NK cells and expand regulatory T-cell populations. Moreover, it is now accepted that the differentiative capacities of such cells span all the mesoderm-derived tissues, extending to neuroectodermal as well as endodermal lineages. In this review, we compare very recent data on the potential of WJ-MSC to undergo hepatocyte-like differentiation with the results obtained from other adult MSC populations. Data in the literature strongly suggest that WJ-MSC can differentiate into diverse cell types, showing a unique ability to cross lineage borders. This, together with their in vitro proliferative potential and their immunoregulatory features, renders these cells extremely promising for regenerative medicine applications in different pathological settings.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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