Umbilical cord blood-derived non-hematopoietic stem cells retrieved and expanded on bone marrow-derived extracellular matrix display pluripotent characteristics

Junjie Wu, Yun Sun, Travis J. Block, Milos Marinkovic, Zhi Liang Zhang, Richard Chen, Yixia Yin, Juquan Song, David D. Dean, Zhongding Lu, Xiao Dong Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Umbilical cord blood (UCB) not only contains hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), but also non-hematopoietic stem cells (NHSCs) that are able to differentiate into a number of distinct cell types. Based on studies published to date, the frequency of NHSCs in UCB is believed to be very low. However, the isolation of these cells is primarily based on their adhesion to tissue culture plastic surfaces. Methods and results: In the current study, we demonstrate that this approach overlooks some of the extremely immature NHSCs because they lack the ability to adhere to plastic. Using a native extracellular matrix (ECM), produced by bone marrow (BM) stromal cells, the majority of the UCB-NHSCs attached within 4 h. The colony-forming unit fibroblast frequency of these cells was 1.5 × 104/108 mononuclear cells, which is at least 4000-fold greater than previously reported for UCB-NHSCs. The phenotype of these cells was fibroblast-like and different from those obtained by plastic adhesion; they formed embryonic body-like clusters that were OCT4-positive and expressed other human embryonic stem cell-related markers. Importantly, when implanted subcutaneously for 8 weeks into immunocompromised mice, these ECM-adherent and expanded NHSCs generated three germ layer-derived human tissues including muscle, fat, blood vessel, bone, gland, and nerve. Moreover, injection of these cells into muscle damaged by cryoinjury significantly accelerated muscle regeneration. Conclusions: These results indicate that UCB may be a virtually unlimited source of NHSCs when combined with isolation and expansion on ECM. NHSCs may be a practical alternative to embryonic stem cells for a number of therapeutic applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number176
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalStem Cell Research and Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • CD146-positive cells
  • Extracellular matrix
  • Extracellular matrix-adherent cells
  • Plastic non-adherent cells
  • Pluripotent stem cells
  • Three germ layer tissue formation in vivo
  • Umbilical cord blood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • Cell Biology


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