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Stem Cells Transl Med. 2013 Aug;2(8):625-32. doi: 10.5966/sctm.2012-0157. Epub 2013 Jul 1.

Wharton's jelly stem cells: a novel cell source for oral mucosa and skin epithelia regeneration.

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Department of Histology (Tissue Engineering Group), University of Granada, Granada, Spain.


Perinatal stem cells such as human umbilical cord Wharton's jelly stem cells (HWJSCs) are excellent candidates for tissue engineering because of their proliferation and differentiation capabilities. However, their differentiation potential into epithelial cells at in vitro and in vivo levels has not yet been reported. In this work we have studied the capability of HWJSCs to differentiate in vitro and in vivo to oral mucosa and skin epithelial cells using a bioactive three-dimensional model that mimics the native epithelial-mesenchymal interaction. To achieve this, primary cell cultures of HWJSCs, oral mucosa, and skin fibroblasts were obtained in order to generate a three-dimensional heterotypical model of artificial oral mucosa and skin based on fibrin-agarose biomaterials. Our results showed that the cells were unable to fully differentiate to epithelial cells in vitro. Nevertheless, in vivo grafting of the bioactive three-dimensional models demonstrated that HWJSCs were able to stratify and to express typical markers of epithelial differentiation, such as cytokeratins 1, 4, 8, and 13, plakoglobin, filaggrin, and involucrin, showing specific surface patterns. Electron microscopy analysis confirmed the presence of epithelial cell-like layers and well-formed cell-cell junctions. These results suggest that HWJSCs have the potential to differentiate to oral mucosa and skin epithelial cells in vivo and could be an appropriate novel cell source for the development of human oral mucosa and skin in tissue engineering protocols.


Adult stem cells; Cell interactions; Cell transplantation; Tissue regeneration

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