McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
faculty member Bridget Deasy, PhD (pictured), assistant professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, was the senior investigator of a study reporting that the tissue of the umbilical cord contains stem cells that could one day provide therapeutic options for muscle and bone disorders, just as the blood from the umbilical cord provides precursor cells to treat some blood disorders. Umbilical cord tissue cells can be expanded to greater number, are remarkably stable, and might not trigger strong immune responses, said Dr. Deasy. The cells are obtained from the gelatinous material in the cord known as Wharton’s jelly and from blood vessel walls.
“Our experiments indicate also that at least 21 million stem cells, and possibly as many as 500 million, could be banked from a single umbilical cord after the birth of a baby,” she noted. “So, the cord could become an accessible source of a multitude of stem cells that overcomes many of the restrictions, such as limited quantity as well as donor age and donor sex issues that come with other adult stem cell populations.”
Dr. Deasy and her team analyzed sections of 2-foot-long human umbilical cords that were donated for research, looking for cells in Wharton’s jelly and blood vessel walls that displayed the characteristic protein markers found in stem cells derived from other sources. The researchers then sought to find the best way to isolate the stem cells from the cords, and tested them in the lab to confirm their ability to produce specialized cells, such as bone and cartilage, while retaining their invaluable ability to renew themselves.
To build on these findings, the team will test the umbilical cord stem cells in animal models of cartilage and bone repair, as well as muscle regeneration.
Dr. Deasy is also an adjunct Assistant Professor with Pitt’s Department of Bioengineering and the Director of the Live Cell Imaging Lab of the Stem Cell Research Center at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Bruno Peault, PhD, of the University of California-Los Angeles, is also an author on the study.
Illustration: McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences Media Relations News Release (12/17/09)
e! Science News (12/17/09)
Bio: Dr. Bridget Deasy
Abstract (Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology, Volume 2009 (2009), Article ID 789526, 11 pages)