The aim of the present study was to investigate whether CBSCs [(umbilical) cord blood stem cells] can be a new source of DCs (dendritic cells), which can generate more potent antigen-specific immune responses and anti-tumour effects. CBSCs and PBMCs (peripheral blood mononuclear cells) were collected, cultured and differentiated into DCs. Surface markers, secreting cytokines, antigen-presentation activity, antigen-specific cell-mediated immunity and cytotoxic killing effects induced by these two DC origins were evaluated and compared. CBSCs were expanded ~17-fold by ex vivo culture. The expression of surface markers in CBSC-derived DCs were higher than those in PBMC-derived DCs treated with LPS (lipopolysaccharide). The CBSC-derived DCs mainly secreted IL (interleukin)-6, IL-10 and TNF (tumour necrosis factor)-α, whereas PBMC-derived DCs mainly secreted IL-5 and IFN (interferon)-γ. The CBSC-derived DCs had better antigen-presentation abilities when stimulated with LPS or TNF-α, induced higher numbers of IFN-γ-secreting antigen-specific CD8+ T-cells, as assessed using an ELISpot (enzyme-linked immunosorbent spot) assay, and stimulated more potent antigen-specific CTL (cytotoxic T-cell) activities (P<0.01, one-way ANOVA). CBSC-derived DCs had quicker and greater ERK (extracellular-signal-regulated kinase) and Akt phosphorylation, and weaker p38 phosphorylation, than PBMC-derived DCs when stimulated with LPS. In conclusion, CBSC-derived DCs have the ability to induce stronger antigen-specific immunity and more potent anti-tumour effects and therefore could be a good source of DCs for use in DC-based cancer vaccines and immunotherapy.

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