New study hints at the use of umbilical cord-derived stem cells to help brain injury repair

A new study conducted on mice has found that cells taken from an umbilical cord can be used to protect nerve cells from injury caused before birth.

Published in Frontiers in Neurology, the study showed that the use of stem cell therapies could be used as a potential therapeutic alternative to treating neurological conditions caused by brain injury.

The umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (UC-MSCs) used in the research were chosen by scientists due to their ability to be manipulated to form almost any cell type in the body.

The latest revelation on their use is exciting the medical community as UC-MSCs can be extracted in large amounts, expanded in the laboratory, and used to regenerate damaged tissue, including brain cells.

This is not the first study to find a useful link between UC-MSCs and neurological diseases, with similar studies on animals showing improvements after UC-MSC transplants.

In fact, some earlier pilot studies have suggested that cell therapies with UC-MSCs could improve neurological function in patients with traumatic brain injury and restore gross motor function in children with cerebral palsy.

During the most recent study, UC-MSCs were used to repair damage to nerve cells that occurs during foetal development.

In order to do this, researchers damaged mouse neurons through oxygen and sugar (glucose) deprivation to create a similar model of injured neonate neurons in the cortex – the part of the brain that plays a key role in functions such as movement, memory, perception, language, and cognition.

The mice were then given stem cell therapy using UC-MSCs which significantly repaired the neuronal injury, partially restored the number of mature and developing neurons, the growth of neuron projections, and neuron proliferation.

The researchers concluded: “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 [transfer of cells from a donor] UC-MSC therapies for brain injuries.”