Umbilical Cord Stem Cells vs Bone Marrow Stem Cells

Umbilical Cord Stem Cells vs Bone Marrow Stem Cells research and stem cell therapy are hot topics in the scientific and health care fields right now.  Many people are familiar with or have at least heard on the news about the life-saving properties of bone marrow stem cells (BMSCs) in the context of bone marrow transplants, and perhaps are aware that these stem cells lie at the center of emerging therapies for various physiological disorders.  BMSCs have long been considered the gold standard for regenerative stem cells.  More recently, however, stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood (umbilical cord-derived stem cells, UCSCs) have been gaining attention as a useful alternative to BMSCs.

Major Stem Cell Differences

The first major difference between BMSCs and UCSCs, on a patient’s side at least, is the manner in which the cells are collected.  Collecting bone marrow is an invasive, painful procedure which involves injecting a large needle into one of the donor’s bones, frequently the pelvis or hip-bone, and sucking out a portion of marrow.  In addition to being inconvenient and uncomfortable for the donor (or the patient in cases where autologous stem cells are being used to treat the same person), this procedure runs the risk of causing tissue damage or other morbidities at the collection site.  On the other hand, donor umbilical cords may be easily obtained shortly after the birth of a healthy baby and without causing any pain or injury to the donor.

More Collagen Production

In terms of healing properties, UCSCs have been found in rodent models to be equally effective at restoring movement and motor function and alleviating pain following spinal cord injury.  When tested with electrical impulses, neurons at the site of implantation with UCSCs responded better to stimulation than neurons at BMSC injection sites.  When cultured in vitro (in a laboratory environment outside of a host), UCSCs and BMSCs produce collagen, a protein important for holding tissues together and repairing injuries.  While BMSCs produced more type II collagen than UCSCs, the UCSCs produced more collagen overall.  Altogether, these studies indicate that UCSs could be just as good as BMSCs at healing injuries, if not better.

Stem Cell Lifespan

For long-term healing and restoration, it is important for a population of donor stem cells to survive for lengths of time where they are implanted.  Various factors including transplantation damage as well as the local environment within the recipient’s body determine how many stem cells survive the initial injection as well as how long they survive and replicate afterward. It is known that when stem cells are injected, a fraction dies off initially and the rest eventually stop growing and dividing, a state known as senescence.  Comparisons of UCSCs and BMSCs both in vitro and in rodent models found that not only do UCSCs show a better survival rate, but UCSCs also replicate faster and for a longer time before reaching senescence.  This may be due to the fact that UCSCs are more primitive or youthful in nature than adult-derived BMSCs.  Overall, stem cells obtained from umbilical cord blood seem to be ideal for use in stem cell therapy while providing some additional benefits over bone marrow-derived cells.




Wang, L; Tran, I; Seshareddy, K; A, H; Weiss, ML; Detamore, MS.  2009.  A comparison of human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells and human umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stromal cells for cartilage tissue engineering.  Tissue Engineering 15(8): 2259-2266.

Jin, HJ; Bae, YK; Kim, M; Kwon, SJ; Jeon, HB; Choi, SJ; Kim, SW; Yang, YS; Oh, W; Chang, JW.  2013.  Comparative analysis of human mesenchymal stem cells from bone marrow, adipose tissue, and umbilical cord blood as sources of cell therapy.  Int. J. Mol. Sci. 14: 17986-18001.

Yousefifard, M; Nasirinezhad, F; Manaheji, HS; Jansadeh, A; Hosseini, M; Keshavarz, M.  2016.  Human bone marrow-derived and umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells for alleviating neuropathic pain in a spinal cord injury model.  Stem Cell Research & Therapy 7:36

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