Wharton's Jelly for Augmented Cleft Palate Repair in a Rat Critical-Size Alveolar Bone Defect Model

Suchit Sahai, Marysuna Wilkerson, Hasen Xue, Nicolas Moreno, Louis Carrillo, Rene Flores, Matthew R. Greives, Scott D. Olson, Charles S. Cox, Fabio Triolo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Secondary alveolar bone grafts (ABGs) are the standard treatment for the alveolar defect in patients with cleft lip and palate (CLP), but remain invasive and have several disadvantages such as delayed timing of alveolar repair, donor-site complications, graft resorption, and need for multiple surgeries. Earlier management of the alveolar defect (primary ABG) would be ideal, but is limited by the minimal bony donor sites available in the infant. In this study we used a critical-size alveolar bone defect model in the rat to investigate the use of Wharton's Jelly (WJ), the stem cell-rich connective tissue matrix of the umbilical cord, to generate bone within the alveolar cleft. Human WJ was isolated and implanted into a critical-size alveolar bone defect model representative of secondary cleft ABG surgery in 10-11-week-old male Sprague-Dawley rats. The defects were monitored with CT imaging of living animals to evaluate bone regrowth and healing over 24 weeks, followed by histomorphometric evaluation at 24 weeks, after the last CT scan. CT data confirmed that the defect size was critical and did not lead to the union of the bones in the control animals (n = 12) for the entire duration of the study. New bone growth was stimulated leading to partial-to-full closure of the defect in the animals treated with WJ (n = 12). Twenty four weeks postoperatively, the percent increase in new bone formation in the WJ-treated group (156.58% ± 20.67%) was markedly higher than that in the control group (50.36% ± 21.07%) (p < 0.05). Histomorphometric data also revealed significantly greater new bone formation in WJ-treated versus control animals, confirming CT findings. qPCR analysis of human Alu elements was unable to detect any appreciable long-term persistence of human cells in the new bone, indicating that WJ may enhance bone growth by mediating osteoinduction in the host tissue, rather than through osteogenic differentiation of WJ-embedded cells. In this study, Wharton's Jelly enhanced bone growth in a preclinical alveolar defect model, indicating its potential use as a natural adjunct in the repair of the alveolar cleft defect in patients with cleft lip and palate (CLP). The clinical success of this approach would represent a paradigm shift in the treatment of patients with CLP by reducing or eliminating the need for subsequent secondary alveolar bone graft and reducing their number of lifetime surgeries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)591-601
Number of pages11
JournalTissue Engineering - Part A
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Wharton's Jelly
  • bone regeneration
  • cleft palate repair

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomaterials


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