Stem cell-like properties of human umbilical cord lining epithelial cells and the potential for epidermal reconstitution

Cytotherapy. 2011 Feb;13(2):145-55. doi: 10.3109/14653249.2010.509578. Epub 2010 Aug 24.


Background aims: Stem cells are particularly attractive for many cell-based therapeutic interventions because of their ability to self-renew and their capacity to differentiate into site-specific differentiating cells. Restoration of the integrity of epithelial continuity is an essential aspect of wound repair and tissue regeneration. We are currently looking at the potential of human umbilical cord lining cells as a source of epithelial stem cells with appropriate differentiation capacity for potential epidermal reconstitution.

Methods: We isolated human umbilical cord lining epithelial cells (CLEC) and characterized their phenotype from the perspective of proliferative potential, telomere length, expression of epidermal differentiation markers, as well as stem cell-specific markers, and clonogenicity. Their potential for epidermal reconstitution was investigated in an organotypic culture model.

Results: The results demonstrated that CLEC present a long telomere length and have a relatively high proliferative potential and passaging ability in culture. CLEC display some of the stem cell-specific markers for epithelial as well as pluripotent stem cells, including CK19, p63, OCT-4, SSEA-4, TRA-1-60, SOX2 and Nanog. CLEC are capable of generating a fully stratified epithelium in organotypic culture.

Conclusions: The potential of CLEC to be used in clinical applications for specialized epithelial reconstruction is still unexplored. The demonstration that CLEC have stem cell-like properties and are capable of generating fully stratified epithelium provides support for their potential clinical application in epidermal reconstitution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Separation
  • Colony-Forming Units Assay
  • Epidermal Cells*
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Phenotype
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / genetics
  • Regeneration
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Telomere / ultrastructure
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Umbilical Cord / cytology*
  • Umbilical Cord / metabolism
  • Wound Healing*


  • Biomarkers
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Transcription Factors