CD271 has been applied to isolate mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) from bone marrow and other tissues. Umbilical cord blood is a unique resource of stem cells and endothelial progenitor cells. Isolation of MSCs from umbilical cord blood, however, has been inefficient and inconsistent. This study was designed to examine the potential application of CD271 as a marker for the isolation of MSCs from umbilical cord blood. CD271+ cells were isolated from umbilical cord blood and bone marrow using CD271 antibody-conjugated microbeads, and characterized in osteogenic, chondrogenic and adipogenic differentiation. CD271+ cells from umbilical cord blood were slow to proliferate compared with those isolated from bone marrow. While CD271+ cells from bone marrow differentiated into osteogenic, chondrogenic and adipogenic lineages, there were no sound indications of differentiation by CD271+ cells from umbilical cord blood under the same differentiation conditions applied to the CD271+ cells from bone marrow. The study also found that bone marrow CD271+ cells remarkably upregulated the expression of chondrogenic genes under chondrogenic differentiation induction. When implanted into bone defects in mice, CD271+ cells from bone marrow regenerated significant bone, but the counterparts in umbilical cord blood formed little bone in the bone defects. In conclusion, CD271 is an efficient marker for MSC isolation from bone marrow but has failed to isolate MSCs from umbilical cord blood. CD271+ cells in bone marrow are particularly chondrogenic. The property of CD271+ cells is unique but varies from different tissues.

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