A recent study by researchers at Kansas State University has found that Wharton's jelly, the cushioning material or matrix within the umbilical cord, is a rich and readily available source of primitive stem cells. These umbilical cord matrix cells, which show tell-tale characteristics of all stem cells, could provide the scientific and medical research community with a non-controversial and easily attainable source of stem cells for developing treatments for Parkinson's disease, stroke, spinal cord injuries, cancers and other condition.
The development of many embryonic stem cell-based therapies for treating several degenerative diseases of the nervous system as well as other types of disease is hindered by the controversial nature of the cell sources. The cord matrix cells - called so, to distinguish them from cord blood cells - can be obtained in the non-invasive manner from an abundant source of tissue that is typically discarded. Researchers point out that Wharton's jelly might be a reservoir of the primitive stem cells that form soon after the egg is fertilized. Wharton's jelly is the gelatinous connective tissue only found in the umbilical cord. The jelly gives the cord resiliency and pliability, and protects the blood vessels in the umbilical cord from compression.
AdvertisementThe researchers propagated Wharton's jelly cells from pigs in the lab without losing potency. The encouraging results with the animal tissue, prompted the team of researchers to broaden their investigations to human umbilical cord matrix cells, which also produced similar exciting findings - human umbilical cord matrix cells also differentiated into neurons.