2/09/2005

A New Source of Stem Cells?

Via The Corner...

The Toronto Star reports that researchers have found a new and fairly abundant source of stem cells.

The source: a region of the umbilical cord that holds an abundant supply of connective-tissue stem cells — the basic building blocks for the body's bone, fat and ligament tissues.

Known as mesenchymal cells, the bone-building brand of stem cells is the progenitor of all the body's connective tissues, which also include cartilage and some muscles.

They can be found in concentrations of about one in 10,000 cells in the bone marrow of young children, and one in 100,000 in adult marrow.

But in the umbilical cord jelly now being mined by the UofT team, the concentration is one in 300. Known as Wharton's Jelly, it surrounds the three umbilical cord blood vessels connecting the fetus and mother. The jelly helps prevent the vessels from kinking — much like a garden hose might — as the embryo floats about the womb.

The U of T team used donated cords from full-term pregnancies.
Obviously, the potential of these cells remains to be determined. Still, it's an encouraging sign that a plentiful source of these cells appears to be available and that harvesting them won't require the destruction of embryos.

Although I can't help but wonder if Kansas State University didn't beat them to the punch.