The umbilical cord is a noncontroversial source of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) [1, 2]. Recently MSCs isolated from Wharton's Jelly (WJMSCs), a mucoid connective tissue of the umbilical cord, were shown to have the ability to differentiate towards multiple lineages, including adipose, bone, and neuronal lineages [3, 4].
Work from several laboratories suggests that these cells, which are very abundant, have potential in therapeutic and tissue engineering field, and indicates that they may be successfully collected and stored for both preclinical work, and banking services [5, 6].
It is important to point out that patients who receive umbilical cord stem cells are at a lower risk of developing graft versus host disease, than those who receive bone marrow transplants .
Even if there is a considerable debate about MSC plasticity, there are numerous recent reviews and papers on MSCs describing molecular signals that have been identified in driving MSC differentiation down osteoblast lineage, and molecules that are known playing an important role in achieving the desired cellular response such as bone morphogenetic proteins (BMP), dexamethasone, ascorbic acid, and β-glycerophosphate [8, 9]. Bone defect repair has been one of the first applications of MSCs, and clinical potential of the use of these cells for bone tissue repair is now extensively explored [10–13].
Nevertheless, bone tissue engineering applications require that MSCs must possess certain reproducible characteristics such as maintenance of the differentiated phenotype. In this scenario, an area of intense research activity, is devoted to improve human MSC characterization, isolation, and expansion [14–16].
Starting from these considerations, we sought to establish further elements for selection of the most desirable cell source for obtaining, inside a WJMSCs collection, the cells with most promising ability to differentiate into osteoblasts.
In the present study five different obstetric parameters, including baby's gender and birth weight, mother's age at delivery, gestational stage at parturition and mode of delivery, were correlated with osteoblastic markers, such as ALP activity, RUNX-2 expression and with the ability of WJMSCs to differentiate along osteogenic lineage.
The hypothesis that the correlation among these parameters may help the selection of optimal umbilical cord donors to collect WJMSCs with most promising osteoprogenitor cell potential is discussed.