Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been widely used in allogeneic stem cell transplantation. We compared immunologic and hematopoietic characteristics of MSCs derived from whole human umbilical cord (UC), as well as from different sections of UCs, including the amniotic membrane (AM), Wharton's jelly (WJ), and umbilical vessel (UV). Cell phenotypes were examined by flow cytometry. Lymphocyte transformation test and mixed lymphocyte reaction were performed to evaluate the immuno-modulatory activity of MSCs derived from UCs. The mRNA expression of cytokines was detected by real-time polymerase chain reaction. Hematopoietic function was studied by co-culturing MSCs with CD34(+) cells isolated from cord blood. Our results showed that MSCs separated from these four different sections including UC, WJ, UV, and AM had similar biological characteristics. All of the MSCs had multi-lineage differentiation ability and were able to differentiate into osteoblasts, adipocytes, and chondrocytes. The MSCs also inhibited the proliferation of allogeneic T cells in a dose-dependent manner. The relative mRNA expression of cytokines was examined, and the results showed that UCMSCs had higher interleukin-6 (IL6), IL11, stem cell factor, and FLT3 expression than MSCs derived from specific sections of UCs. CD34(+) cells had high propagation efficiencies when co-cultured with MSCs derived from different sections of UCs, among which UCMSCs are the most efficient feeding layer. Our study demonstrated that MSCs could be isolated from whole UC or specific sections of UC with similar immunomodulation and hematopoiesis supporting characteristics.
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