Background: It has been demonstrated that human umbilical cord stromal stem cells (UCSSCs) are bio-equivalent to bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells. However, little is known about their tissue origin or in vivo functions, and data on their expansion properties are limited due to early senescence in the culture methods described to date.
Methods: UC sections and cultured UCSSCs were analyzed with a panel of 12 antibodies. UCSSCs were grown in low-FCS containing medium at 5% or 21% oxygen and were assayed for their clonogenic properties, karyotype stability, expression of specific cellular markers, and multi-lineage potential. UCSSC contractile properties were evaluated by using collagen gel contraction assays under cytokine stimulus.
Results: Immunohistochemistry studies showed that the UCSSCs were derived from the Wharton's jelly and not from the vascular smooth muscle sheath of the blood vessels. UCSSC growth properties were increased in a 5% oxygen atmosphere in comparison to normoxic culture conditions. In both culture conditions, UCSSCs were CD14-, CD34-, and CD45-negative while expressing high levels of CD73, CD90 and CD105 and maintaining their differentiation potentialities. UCSSCs expressed alpha smooth muscle actin and behaved as functional myofibroblasts when cellular contraction was challenged with appropriate stimuli.
Conclusions: UCSCs are mesenchymal stem cells that reside in the perivascular area of Wharton's jelly and are phenotypically and functionally related to myofibroblasts.
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