In recent years, important advances were made to clarify the biology and potential use of mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) in the therapy of a number of disorders. MSC are present in a number of tissues, ranging from adult bone marrow, to several adult organs, adipose tissue and, in the last years, the fetal-associated (also named as extraembryonic) tissues (e.g. placenta, amniotic membrane, umbilical cord). In particular, research on cells derived from mature umbilical cord, a tissue which is still discarded at birth, showed that mesenchymal stem cells can be successfully isolated from the Whartons jelly (WJ), the main constituent of this organ. This review will take in to account the patents which were developed concerning the isolation procedures of cells from WJ (both using enzymatic or enzyme-free techniques), the development of differentiation protocols and the in vivo applications in cellular therapy approaches using both differentiated and undifferentiated cells. In addition, we will focus on the latest advances on the biology of these cells, in particular for what concerns their hypoimmunogenicity in in vitro and in vivo, and their potential application as immunomodulatory cells besides their differentiation capacity.
Keywords: Cellular therapy, human umbilical cord, hypoimmunogenicity, immune regulation, isolation and differentiation, mesenchymal stem cells, stem cells patents, Wharton's jelly, amniotic membrane, placenta
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