We successfully developed novel in vitro systems to grow human embryos to the day-5 blastocyst stage to help boost pregnancy rates for childless couples going through In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). This led us to the world’s first derivation of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) from donated surplus blastocysts in 1994.

Thereafter we developed several research-grade ESC lines that were registered with the NIH, USA and produced the world’s first protocols for the derivation of xeno-free clinical-grade ESC lines and the differentiation of ESCs into neuronal lineages.

We have now extended our stem cell research to studies on the growth, behaviour and clinical applications of extra-embryonic mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) from the Wharton’s jelly of the human umbilical cord.


Our current focus is in the following areas:

  • The differentiation of hWJSCs into desirable lineages for cell-based therapies.
  • Evaluation of the anticancer properties of hWJSCs.
  • Evaluation of the use of hWJSCs in two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) (impregnation into scaffolds) platforms for the ex vivo expansion of hematopoietic stem cells for the treatment of malignant hematopoietic diseases.
  • Reprogramming of hWJSCs from normal umbilical cords and cords from mothers with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to generate tissues that represent the fetus to study the effects of maternal hyperglycaemia and other potential teratogens.
  • Evaluation of the use of 3D scaffolds impregnated with hWJSCs as wound dressing patches to treat hard-to-heal diabetic wounds, burns and bed-sores.
  • The development of c-GMP compliant hWJSCs for clinical trials involving a variety of disorders.

There is another group working on the biology and application of fetal mesenchymal stem cells. They are developing cGMP-compliant fetal stem cells and have successfully treated human fetuses suffering from osteogenesis imperfecta with fetal stem cells.


Some publications representing our work

  • 1. Subramanian A, Fong CY, Biswas A, Bongso A (2016) Comparative characterization of cells from the various compartments of the human umbilical cord shows that the Wharton’s jelly compartment provides the best source of clinically utilizable mesenchymal stem cells. PLoS One 10 (6): e0127992.
  • 2. Fong CY, Subramanian A, Biswas A, Bongso A (2016) Freezing of fresh Wharton’s jelly from human umbilical cords yields high post-thaw mesenchymal stem cell numbers for cell based therapies. J Cellular Biochem 117: 815-827.
  • 3. Lin HD, Fong CY, Biswas A, Choolani M, Bongso A (2016) Human umbilical cord Wharton’s jelly stem cell conditioned medium induces tumoricidal effects on lymphoma cells through hydrogen peroxide mediation. J of Cellular Biochem DOI: 10.1002/jcb.25501.
  • 4. Fong C Y, Tam K, Suganya C, Gan SU, Gauthaman K, Armugam A, Jeyaseelan K, Choolani M, Biswas A, Bongso A, (2014) Human Wharton's jelly stem cells and its conditioned medium enhance healing of excisional and diabetic wounds. Journal of Cellular Biochem 115: 290 - 302.
  • 5. Fong CY, Biswas A, Subramanian A, Srinivasan A, Choolani M, Bongso A (2014) Human keloid cell characterization and inhibition of growth with human Wharton's jelly stem cell extracts. J Cellular Biochem. 115 (5): 826-838.
  • 6. Bongso A, Fong CY (2013) The therapeutic potential, challenges and future clinical directions of stem cells from the Wharton's jelly of the human umbilical cord. Stem Cell Reviews and Reports 9: 226-240.


Other Key Research Areas