What Are Mesenchymal Stem Cells?
The above images are colored scanning electron micrographs (SEM) of human Mesenchymal Stem Cells. MSCs are multipotent stromal (connective tissue) cells that can differentiate into a variety of cell types, including osteoblasts (bone cells), chondrocytes (cartilage cells), and adipocytes (fat cells).
The youngest, most primitive MSCs can be obtained from the umbilical cord tissue, namely Wharton’s jelly and the umbilical cord blood. However the MSCs are found in much higher concentration in the Wharton’s jelly compared to the umbilical cord blood, which is a rich source of hematopoietic stem cells. The umbilical cord is easily obtained after the birth of the newborn, is normally thrown away, and poses no risk for collection. The umbilical cord MSCs have more primitive properties than other adult MSCs obtained later in life, which might make them a useful source of MSCs for clinical applications.
Adipose tissue is one of the richest sources of MSCs. There are more than 500 times more stem cells in 1 gram of fat than in 1 gram of aspirated bone marrow. Adipose stem cells are actively being researched in clinical trials for treatment of a variety of diseases. Additionally, amniotic fluid has been shown to be a rich source of stem cells. As many as 1 in 100 cells collected during amniocentesis has been shown to be a pluripotent mesenchymal stem cell.
Images above © © Steve Gschmeissner / Science Source