The first umbilical cord blood (UCB) transplant to a sibling with Fanconi's anaemia in 1988 represented a breakthrough in the field of transplantation. Thereon, several transplants have been performed with UCB-derived hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and a plethora of studies have investigated the plasticity of UCB-derived stem and progenitor cells. However, these studies have not been hitherto translated into clinical trials and, although UCB is routinely used as an alternative source of HSCs, no substantial advances have been made in the field of clinical regenerative medicine. The real deal is the lack of knowledge about the molecular processes governing the events of differentiation which transform immature UCB stem cells into terminally-committed hematopoietic, muscle, bone and nervous cells. In order to fill this void, several studies have been recently focused on the identification of the peculiar proteomic profile of UCB-derived stem cells. Hereby, we concisely review recent proteomic surveys addressing UCB-derived stem and progenitor cells. Notably, comparative studies detected a wider spectrum of proteins in immature cells rather than in more differentiated populations, as if maturation events could represent a bottleneck to protein expression. Future research projects should try to shed light on these processes and their completion could pave the way for unprecedented treatments.
(c) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.