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Int Rev Neurobiol. 2013;108:79-120. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-410499-0.00004-6.

Perspectives of employing mesenchymal stem cells from the Wharton's jelly of the umbilical cord for peripheral nerve repair.

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Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas Abel Salazar (ICBAS), Universidade do Porto (UP), Porto, Portugal; Centro de Estudos de Ciência Animal (CECA), Instituto de Ciências e Tecnologias Agrárias e Agro-Alimentares (ICETA), Universidade do Porto (UP), Porto, Portugal.


Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) from Wharton's jelly present high plasticity and low immunogenicity, turning them into a desirable form of cell therapy for the injured nervous system. Their isolation, expansion, and characterization have been performed from cryopreserved umbilical cord tissue. Great concern has been dedicated to the collection, preservation, and transport protocols of the umbilical cord after the parturition to the laboratory in order to obtain samples with higher number of viable MSCs without microbiological contamination. Different biomaterials like chitosan-silicate hybrid, collagen, PLGA90:10, poly(DL-lactide-ɛ-caprolactone), and poly(vinyl alcohol) loaded with electrical conductive materials, associated to MSCs have also been tested in the rat sciatic nerve in axonotmesis and neurotmesis lesions. The in vitro studies of the scaffolds included citocompatibility evaluation of the biomaterials used and cell characterization by imunocytochemistry, karyotype analysis, differentiation capacity into neuroglial-like cells, and flow cytometry. The regeneration process follow-up has been performed by functional analysis and the repaired nerves processed for stereological studies permitted the morphologic regeneration evaluation. The MSCs from Wharton's jelly delivered through tested biomaterials should be regarded a potentially valuable tool to improve clinical outcome especially after trauma to sensory nerves. In addition, these cells represent a noncontroversial source of primitive mesenchymal progenitor cells, which can be harvested after birth, cryogenically stored, thawed, and expanded for therapeutic uses. The importance of a longitudinal study concerning tissue engineering of the peripheral nerve, which includes a multidisciplinary team able to develop biomaterials associated to cell therapies, to perform preclinical trials concerning animal welfare and the appropriate animal model is here enhanced.


Axonotmesis; Biomaterials; Functional assessment; Mesenchymal stem cells; Neurotmesis; Peripheral nerve; Stereology; Umbilical cord; Wharton’s jelly

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