Wharton’s Jelly (Cord Tissue) for Cleft Palate Repair

Did you know that the most common congenital birth defect is a cleft lip or palate?  

At about 9 weeks your baby’s face is formed. During this time if the tissues that compose the upper lip do not completely attach, your baby can be born with a cleft lip or palate.

A cleft lip is an opening in the upper lip. According to MedlinePlus, “The opening can be a small slit or a large opening that goes through the lip into the nose. Children with a cleft lip also can have a cleft palate. With a cleft palate, the tissue that makes up the roof of the mouth does not join correctly.” Children who are born with a cleft lip or palate often have difficulty with feeding and talking. “They also might have ear infections, hearing loss, and problems with their teeth”. Cleft lip surgery and speech therapy are often suggested and new research shows that banking your baby’s cord tissue could help in repairing the cleft lip/palate.

While we know the many advantages of banking cord blood, cord tissue is still being developed.

This new research looks into using cord tissues, made up of Wharton’s jelly which contains mesenchymal stems. According to Dr. Charles S. Cox, Jr., Professor of Pediatric Surgery, and the George and Cynthia Mitchell Distinguished Chair in Neuroscience, these stem cells, “support bone in-growth and can develop into bone cells called osteoblasts. Even when minced, the collagen fibers in the cord tissue give it structural characteristics that enable it to pack the gap that must be bridged in alveolar cleft palate repair. This is a distinct advantage over harvesting the child’s bone marrow, which is a liquid that cannot bridge the gap without a scaffold.” 

Current results are showing this approach improves healing of cleft palate defects in animals and is looking promising in treating children with this condition.  


NCIB.NLM.NIH.GOV, Abstract 126: Wharton’s Jelly Induces Osteogenesis In An Alveolar Cleft Model, Matthew R. Greives, MD, Suchit Sahai, PhD, Marysuna Wilkerson, BA, Hasen Xue, BA, John F. Teichgraeber, MD, Charles Cox, MD, and Fabio Triolo, PhD

Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation, Wharton’s jelly to augment cleft palate repairCharles S. Cox, Jr., M.D., June 2017 

MedlinePlus, Cleft Lip and Palate