Objective - To optimize the isolation and culture of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) from umbilical-cord blood (UCB), identify variables that predicted successful MSC isolation, and determine whether shipping, processing, and cryopreservation altered MSC viability, recovery rates, and expansion kinetics. Sample Population - UCB samples from 79 Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse mares. Procedures - UCB samples were processed to reduce volume and remove RBCs. Nucleated cells (NCs) were cryopreserved or grown in various culture conditions to optimize MSC monolayer expansion and proliferation. Donor and UCB-sample factors were analyzed to determine their influence on the success of MSC isolation and monolayer expansion. Results - MSCs capable of multilineage in vitro differentiation were expanded from > 80% of UCB samples. Automated UCB processing and temperature-controlled shipping facilitated sterile and standardized RBC reduction and NC enrichment from UCB samples. The number of NCs after UCB samples were processed was the sole variable that predicted successful MSC expansion. The UCB-derived MSCs and NCs were successfully cryopreserved and thawed with no decrease in cell recovery, viability, or MSC proliferation. The use of fibronectin-coated culture plates and reduction of incubator oxygen tension from 20% to 5% improved the MSC isolation rate. Some UCB-derived MSC clones proliferated for > 20 passages before senescence. Onset of senescence was associated with specific immunocytochemical changes. Conclusions and Clinical Relevance - Equine UCB samples appeared to be a rich source of readily obtainable, highly proliferative MSCs that could be banked for therapeutic use.
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