Human Wharton’s jelly stem cells and its conditioned medium enhance healing of excisional and diabetic wounds

Author(s): Fong CY, Tam K, Cheyyatraivendran S, Gan SU, Gauthaman K, et al.


Wound healing is a major problem in diabetic patients and current treatments have met with limited success. We evaluated the treatment of excisional and diabetic wounds using a stem cell isolated from the human umbilical cord Wharton's jelly (hWJSC) that shares unique properties with embryonic and adult mesenchymal stem cells. hWJSCs are non-controversial, available in abundance, hypo-immunogenic, non-tumorigenic, differentiate into keratinocytes, and secrete important molecules for tissue repair. When human skin fibroblasts (CCD) in conventional scratch-wound assays were exposed to hWJSC-conditioned medium (hWJSC-CM) the fibroblasts at the wound edges migrated and completely covered the spaces by day 2 compared to controls. The number of invaded cells, cell viability, total collagen, elastin, and fibronectin levels were significantly greater in the hWJSC-CM treatment arm compared to controls (P < 0.05). When a single application of green fluorescent protein (GFP)-labeled hWJSCs (GFP-hWJSCs) or hWJSC-CM was administered to full-thickness murine excisional and diabetic wounds, healing rates were significantly greater compared to controls (P < 0.05). Wound biopsies collected at various time points showed the presence of green GFP-labeled hWJSCs, positive human keratinocyte markers (cytokeratin, involucrin, filaggrin) and expression of ICAM-1, TIMP-1, and VEGF-A. On histology, the GFP-hWJSCs and hWJSC-CM treated wounds showed reepithelialization, increased vascularity and cellular density and increased sebaceous gland and hair follicle numbers compared to controls. hWJSCs showed increased expression of several miRNAs associated with wound healing compared to CCDs. Our studies demonstrated that hWJSCs enhance healing of excisional and diabetic wounds via differentiation into keratinocytes and release of important molecules.

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