Mesenchymal stem cells derived from Wharton’s jelly expressing aurora kinase A (AURKA) could have therapeutic effects in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), according to a new study published in Stem Cells International

Research has shown that many proteins secreted by mesenchymal stem cells may have therapeutic effects in DMD and other diseases. Therefore, mesenchymal stem cells could hold therapeutic potential for these diseases. However, their proliferation capacity and production yield are very different, which can limit their use in the clinic. 

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To select mesenchymal stem cells with high proliferation and therapeutic properties, a team of researchers from the Republic of Korea used messenger RNA sequencing to identify genes that were upregulated in mesenchymal stem cells derived from human Wharton’s jelly, which have high proliferation potential.

They found that AURKA and dedicator of cytokinesis 2 (DOCK2) were upregulated and their expression levels were positively correlated with their proliferation capacities.

The researchers also found that AURKA upregulated the chemokine C motif ligand and thereby suppressed apoptosis in skeletal muscle cells in DMD. They confirmed this using a mouse model of DMD.

“Taken together, the results indicated that AURKA and DOCK2 can be used as potential biomarkers for proliferation and migration of human [Wharton’s jelly-derived mesenchymal stem cells],” the researchers wrote, adding that Wharton’s jelly-derived mesenchymal stem cells with high AURKA expression “might have therapeutic efficacy against muscle diseases, such as DMD.”

Wharton’s jelly is a gelatinous substance within the umbilical cord mostly consisting of mucopolysaccharides that insulates and protects the umbilical cord in the uterus. It is a great source of mesenchymal stem cells and has been proposed as a source for stem cell-based therapies.

AURKA is a member of the family of serine/threonine kinases, the activation of which is necessary for cell division.


Kim SJ, Park SE, Jeong JB, et al. Wharton’s jelly-derived mesenchymal stem cells with high aurora kinase A expression show improved proliferation, migration, and therapeutic potential. Stem Cells Int. 2022;2022:4711499. doi:10.1155/2022/4711499