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Influence of obstetric factors on osteogenic potential of umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells

Letizia Penolazzi1, Renata Vecchiatini12, Stefania Bignardi3, Elisabetta Lambertini1, Elena Torreggiani1, Alessandro Canella1, Tiziana Franceschetti14, Giorgio Calura2, Fortunato Vesce3 and Roberta Piva1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Molecular Biology Section, University of Ferrara, Italy

2 Department of Medico-Surgical Disciplines of Communication and Behaviour, University of Ferrara, Italy

3 Department of Biomedical Sciences and Advanced Therapies, Section of Obstetric and Gynaecological Clinic, Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria S Anna, Ferrara, Italy

4 Department of Reconstructive Science, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, Connecticut, USA

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Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology 2009, 7:106  doi:10.1186/1477-7827-7-106

Published: 5 October 2009


Wharton's jelly from the umbilical cord is a noncontroversial source of mesenchymal stem cells (WJMSCs) with high plasticity, proliferation rate and ability to differentiate towards multiple lineages. WJMSCs from different donors have been characterized for their osteogenic potential. Although there is large evidence of WJMSCs plasticity, recently scientific debate has focused on MSCs selection, establishing predictable elements to discriminate the cells with most promising osteoprogenitor cell potential.

In the present study a comparative study between the presence of osteoblastic markers and different parameters that pertain to both the newborn and the mother was performed. Umbilical cords were collected after all patients signed the informed consent and local ethical commettee approved the study. Obstetric parameters, including baby's gender and birth weight, mother's age at delivery, gestational stage at parturition and mode of delivery were examined. After characterization and expansion, WJMSCs were analyzed for two osteoblastic markers, alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity, and the expression level of RUNX-2 transcription factor, and for their ability to deposit mineralized matrix after osteogenic induction.

We found that osteoblastic potential was not influenced by baby's gender and mode of delivery. On the contrary, the highest degree of osteoblastic potential has been shown by WJMSCs with RUNX-2 high basal levels, selected from umbilical cords of the heaviest term babies.

Even if further evaluation is required, our hypothesis is that our findings may help in selecting the optimal umbilical cord donors and in collecting high potential Wharton's jelly-derived osteoprogenitors efficiently.