A mice study has found that cord blood stem cells, stem cells derived from the umbilical cord, can protect nerve cells from injury caused before birth. The results give positive reinforcement to the push for more cell therapies as potential therapeutic alternatives to treating neurological conditions caused by brain injury, most notably cerebral palsy.
Umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (UC-MSCs) are stem cells found in the umbilical cord that can be extracted in large amounts, and then can grow into almost any cell type in the body. They are expanded in the laboratory and then used to regenerate damaged tissue. The UC-MSCs are healing in that they will either become neurons that can replace those damaged in the patient, or they can release factors that support the growth, survival, and development of neurons, called neurotrophic factors.
To study how these UC-MSCs are able to repair nerve cells damaged in the womb, researchers created a laboratory model of injured neonate, or infant neurons originating from the brain’s cortex, which is an area of the brain that largely contributes to many motor and cognitive functions. To create this model, mouse neurons were damaged through oxygen and glucose deprivation, and then placed in a culture with UC-MSCs collected from women who had given birth.
The UC-MSCs were able to repair much of the injured neurons, reducing the number of neuron deaths, and even partially restoring the number of mature and developing neurons, the growth of neuron projections, and neuron proliferation. The reparative effect of UC-MSCs either occurs as a result of UC-MSCs differentiating into neurons that replace the damaged cells, or they could release certain neurotrophic factors that help the neurons in their growth and survival.
Multiple studies have reported improvements after transplanting UC-MSCs into animal models of neurological diseases. Some pilot studies in people also suggest that cell therapy with UC-MSCs improves neurological function in patients with traumatic brain injury, even restoring gross motor function in children with cerebral palsy. After further study, it has been revealed that the neuroprotection seen is due to two proteins that are released by the UC-MSCs called brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF).
Researchers have concluded that “Considering that UC-MSCs have been administered to treat several neurological disorders, including cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, and hereditary spinocerebellar ataxia, the vast potential that UC-MSCs have in the clinic encourage us to facilitate allogeneic third-party (transfero f cells fro ma donor) UC-MSC therapies for brain injuries.”
More information about the study, “Umbilical Cord-Derived Mesenchymal Stromal Cells Contribute to Neuroprotection in Neonatal Cortical Neurons Damaged by Oxygen-Glucose Deprivation,” can be found in Frontiers in Neurology.