Wharton's jelly

Wharton's jelly (substantia gelatinea funiculi umbilicalis) is a gelatinous substance within the umbilical cord,[1] largely made up of mucopolysaccharides (hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulfate). It acts as a mucous connective tissue containing some fibroblasts and macrophages, and is derived from extra-embryonic mesoderm.

Umbilical cord occlusionEdit

As a mucous connective tissue, it is rich in proteoglycans, and protects and insulates umbilical blood vessels.[2] Wharton's jelly, when exposed to temperature changes, collapses structures within the umbilical cord and thus provides a physiological clamping of the cord for an average of five minutes after birth.

Stem cellsEdit

Cells in Wharton's jelly express several stem cell genes, including telomerase. They can be extracted, cultured, and induced to differentiate into mature cell types such as neurons.[3] Wharton's jelly is therefore a potential source of adult stem cells, often collected from cord blood.[4] Wharton's jelly-derived mesenchymal stem cells may have immunomodulatory effect on lymphocytes.[5] In a recent study, Wharton’s jelly tissue transplantation has shown to be able to reduce traumatic brain injury and may have therapeutic potential.[6]


It is named for the English physician and anatomist Thomas Wharton (1614–1673) who first described it in his publication Adenographia, or "The Description of the Glands of the Entire Body", first published in 1656.[7]


  1. ^ Wharton's jelly in the Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary.
  2. ^ Sadler, T (2010). Langman's Medical Embryology (11th ed.). Wolters Kluwer. p. 105. ISBN 9780781790697.
  3. ^ Mitchell KE, Weiss ML, Mitchell BM, Martin P, Davis D, Morales L, Helwig B, Beerenstrauch M, Abou-Easa K, Hildreth T, Troyer D, Medicetty S. Matrix cells from Wharton's jelly form neurons and glia. Stem Cells. 2003;21(1):50-60.
  4. ^ Wharton's Jelly, Hair Follicles New Sources of Adult Stem Cells, Studies Find StemCellNews.com, 13 May 2005.
  5. ^ Zhou C, Yang B, Tian Y, Jiao H, Zheng W, Wang J, Guan F (September 29, 2011). "Immunomodulatory effect of human umbilical cord Wharton's jelly-derived mesenchymal stem cells on lymphocytes". Cell Immunol. 272 (1): 33–8. doi:10.1016/j.cellimm.2011.09.010. PMC 3235326. PMID 22004796.
  6. ^ Cheng T, Yang B, Li D, Ma S, Tian Y, Qu R, Zhang W, Zhang Y, Hu K, Guan F, Wang J (February 1, 2015). "Wharton's Jelly Transplantation Improves Neurologic Function in a Rat Model of Traumatic Brain Injury". Cell. Mol. Neurobiol. 35: 641–9. doi:10.1007/s10571-015-0159-9. PMC 4481175. PMID 25638565.
  7. ^ Warton T (1656). Adenographia: sive glandularum totius corporis descriptio. London: Wharton. pp. 243–44.

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