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Transfusion. 2011 Nov;51 Suppl 4:94S-105S. doi: 10.1111/j.1537-2995.2011.03372.x.

Human placenta and chorion: potential additional sources of hematopoietic stem cells for transplantation.

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  • 1The Ely and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research, Center of Reproductive Sciences, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143-0665, USA.



Hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) transplantation is an essential element of medical therapy, leading to cures of previously incurable hematological and nonhematological diseases. Many patients do not find matched donors in a timely manner, which has driven efforts to find alternative pools of transplantable HSCs. The use of umbilical cord blood (UCB) as a source of transplantable HSCs began more than two decades ago. However, the use of UCB as a reliable source of HSCs for transplantation still faces crucial challenges: the number of HSCs present in a unit of UCB is usually sufficient for younger children but not for adults, and the persistent delayed engraftment often seen can result in high rates of infection and mortality.


We propose a new approach to a solution of these problems: a potential increase of the limited number of UCB-HSCs available by harvesting HSCs contained in the placenta and the fetal chorionic membrane available at birth.


We investigated the presence of hematopoietic progenitors and HSCs in human placenta and chorion at different gestational ages. The characterization of these cells was performed by flow cytometry and immunolocalization, and their functional status was investigated by transplanting them into immunodeficient mice.


HSCs are present in extraembryonic tissues and could be banked in conjunction to the UCB-HSCs. This novel approach could have a large impact on the field of HSC banking and, more crucially, on the outcome of patients undergoing this treatment by greatly improving the use of life-saving hematopoietic transplants.

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