About Dr. Robert “Bob” Vadovic Dr. Robert "Bob" Vadovic is a Nurse Practitioner with a Ph.D. in Nursing Practice. He started as an Office Provider at Intermountain Healthcare and is currently the Medical Director for High Risk and APPs and Program Director for the APP...
The world of holistic medicine has always been a unique space. New treatments, and experimental healing strategies are just another average day in this field. Still, one interesting medical discovery has begun to capture the interest of the public, Wharton’s Jelly.
What is Wharton’s Jelly?
Wharton’s Jelly is a gelatinous substance that provides insulation and protection within the human umbilical cord. It is composed largely of mucopolysaccharides and has a few key growth factors, including cytokines and stem cells that contain regenerative properties. Wharton’s jelly also has some strong characteristics, including compressibility, response to friction and shear, cushioning, and flexibility.
The FDA has ruled Wharton’s Jelly as a homologous derivative for tendon, ligament, joint, and musculoskeletal applications. This was done because Wharton’s Jelly provides tissue support within the cord blood of the umbilical cord. To obtain this substance in the United States written permission must be given from the family. Doing so grants experts access to mesenchymal stem cells from neonates.
Wharton’s Jelly is considered a structural tissue, because it fits within the criteria of barrier, conduit, connects, covers, or cushions. Since it covers these areas, Wharton’s Jelly derived mucopolysaccharides will be used within regenerative and healing applications. It should be noted that these specific mucopolysaccharides do not produce teratogens or carcinogens.
Uses of Wharton’s Jelly
The applications for Wharton’s Jelly are still mostly unknown, because of how new this form of medicine is. Although, there are a few possible applications. One such application can be found in therapeutic aid, through the use of _Mesenchymal_ stem cells for diabetics. Now, stem cell treatments are nothing new to the diabetic world. However, there is a substantial increase of interest regarding MSC treatments. It just so happens that Wharton’s Jelly and umbilical cord blood contain the highest amount of MSC’s. This is why Wharton’s Jelly is being considered as a major source for MSC treatments in diabetics.
It should be noted that when treating patients, ethics is at the forefront of treatment and harvesting MSC’s can walk a blurry ethical line. That is why WJ-MSC’s are the main source of MSC’s for treatment. With the parent’s consent WJ-MSC’s are harvested from the UC and treated; They then can be used in various ways.
To combat diabetes, WJ-MSC’s target insulin producing cells. Because of their regenerative properties, it is believed that these stem cells rejuvenate the insulin producing cells, increasing the natural output of insulin. As of now there is no evidence that these treatments produce teratoma risks.
Another great use of Wharton’s Jelly is in cochlear tissue engineering. WJ stem cells work alongside biomaterials and growth factors to regrow and repair damaged tissue. Normally when these treatments are performed, embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells are considered. The primary dilemma regarding ESC’s and ISP’s is that harvesting them is not always ethical. So, the best option is WJ stem cells for treatments.
The internet is circulating a few articles that state WJ-MSC’s effectively treat heart failure. Yet, the truth is, there is not enough empirical evidence to support this claim. What is known is that intra-coronary infusion has bee safely done, but treatment efficacy was not validated.
Autoimmune diseases may benefit the most from WJ-MSC treatment. They have been clinically tested, and have been shown to be effective in controlling the progression of diseases. This is due to MSC’S having immunomodulatory properties, making them effective in autoimmune disease cases.
Prospects Going Forward
The future is bright for Wharton’s Jelly, especially now with the massive increase of births in the United States and beyond. Experts predict that there will be no shortage of the substance going forward and researchers are hard at work identifying all the uses for it. Regarding today, WJ-MSC’s will continue to be used in regenerative treatments and therapeutics. Hopefully, this substance will reduce the need for unethically sourced stem cells, paving the way for more socially appropriate harvesting techniques.
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