Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) are widely used in the clinic because they involve fewer ethical issues and safety concerns compared to other stem cells such as embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). MSCs derived from umbilical cord Wharton's jelly (WJ-MSCs) have excellent proliferative potential and a faster growth rate and can retain their multipotency for more passages in vitro compared to adult MSCs from bone marrow or adipose tissue. WJ-MSCs are used clinically for repairing tissue injuries of the spinal cord, liver and heart with the aim of regenerating tissue. On the other hand, WJ-MSCs are also used clinically to ameliorate immune-mediated diseases based on their ability to modulate immune responses. In the field of tissue engineering, WJ-MSCs capable of differentiating into multiple cell lineages have been used to produce a variety of engineered tissues in vitro that can then be transplanted in vivo. This review discusses the characteristics of WJ-MSCs, the differences between WJ-MSCs and adult MSCs, clinical studies involving WJ-MSCs and future perspectives of WJ-MSC research and clinical applications. To summarize, WJ-MSCs have shown promise in treating a variety of diseases clinically. However, most clinical trials/studies reported thus far are relatively smaller in scale. The collected evidence is insufficient to support the routine use of WJ-MSC therapy in the clinic. Thus, rigorous clinical trials are needed in the future to obtain more information on WJ-MSC therapy safety and efficacy.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.