The collagen skeleton of the human umbilical cord at term. A scanning electron microscopy study after 2N-NaOH maceration

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Abstract

The organization of the collagen fibrils in the human umbilical cord at term is directly visualized by means of a scanning electron microscopy cell maceration method. This technique clearly reveals that there is a much more extensive collagen fibrillar architecture within the umbilical cord than that reported in the classical histological descriptions. The Wharton's jelly, in fact, appears as a spongy network of interlacing collagen fibres and small woven bundles apparently arranged at random and forming a continuous soft skeleton that encases the umbilical vessels. The collagen fibrillar network shows the presence of a wide system of interconnected cavities consisting of canalicular-like structures as well as cavernous and perivascular spaces. This system of cavities might play a mechanical role allowing the storing of the ground substance of the jelly and its diffusion during twisting or compression. Furthermore, it may have an important role facilitating the diffusion throughout the jelly of diffused materials (i.e. water and trophic metabolites) either from or to the umbilical vessels and the amniotic cavity, thus overcoming the lack of a proper vasculature within the jelly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)885-894
Number of pages10
JournalReproduction, Fertility and Development
Volume8
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1996

Keywords

  • Extracellular matrix
  • Wharton's jelly

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Endocrinology
  • Reproductive Medicine

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