A new study has found that umbilical cord-derived stem cells may be used to repair certain types of pre-natal brain injuries. The findings mean that conditions like cerebral palsy may be treated before the baby is born. The research was published in the journal Frontiers in Neurology.
The research team used umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (UC-MSCs) for the study. They are multipotent cells that are capable of differentiating into many types of cells, including brain nerve cells.
UC-MSCs can be extracted from the umbilical cord, then expanded in a laboratory to increase the total number of cells. They can then be transfused into a patient to regenerate damaged tissue.
Many studies using animal models have already shown that UC-MSCs may have the capacity to treat certain neurological diseases. Some studies have even suggested that stem cells can be used to restore motor function in children with severe cerebral palsy symptoms.
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UC-MSCs can help patients with brain injuries in two different ways. Firstly, they can differentiate into neurones that replace the damaged neurones in the patient’s brain. UC-MSCs also release factors that promote the growth and development of neurones — helping to protect the patient’s brain from damage.
In an effort to learn how UC-MSCs repair brain damage during foetal development, the research team using a laboratory model of injured neurones from an important part of the brain. They intentionally damage the neurones by starving them of oxygen and glucose. Next, they placed the neurones in a culture that contained UC-MSCs.
The UC-MSCs began repairing the neurones, restoring both maturing and developing neurones. The neurones also began proliferating more rapidly. The research team then discovered what was driving the changes — brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF).
These findings may lead to many new treatments for brain injuries in the coming years.