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Cord blood stem cell hope for Alzheimer's

31 March 2008

By Dr Karen Devine

Appeared in BioNews 451

The journal Stem Cells and Development has announced the results of an exciting new research project being carried out by a collaboration of researchers from the University of Florida, Yale University, New Haven, Cedars Sinai Medical Centre, Los Angeles, Saneron CCEL Therapeutics, Incorporated and The Saintama Medical School, Japan. Together they have studied mice models involving the use of cord blood stem cell therapy, which they claim may potentially be used to treat Alzheimer's disease.

The study was carried out using a series of low-dose injections of umbilical cord blood (UCB) stem cells into mice that presented with abnormalities akin to Alzheimer's disease. Researchers found that the introduction of UCB stem cells appeared to have a profound effect on the mouse brain's inflammatory activity. In particular, inflammation of the brain was greatly reduced and disease progression was recorded as being less aggressive.

The researchers' findings suggest that the use of UCB stem cells may alleviate the symptoms of several important changes within the brain associated with this condition and may improve its pathology and cognitive decline. Notably, the production of amyloid-beta proteins and cerebral amyloid angiopathy, both associated with Alzheimer's, was reduced by 62 and 86 per cent respectively. This ongoing project, funded by CryoCell International, Inc has demonstrated that UCB stem cells may have an important role to play in the future therapeutic treatment of neurological diseases.

Dr Jun Tan from the University of Florida said: 'Our study is the first to report that the potential therapeutic mechanism of umbilical cord blood cells is more through targeting and fixing this malevolent peripheral immune functioning rather than through direct interaction with neurons. We believe restoring the balance between molecules that promote and inhibit inflammation could play a big role in future treatment strategies against Alzheimer's disease'.

UCB stem cell transplants have been successfully used to treat a variety of blood disorders for many years, since they are a rich source of blood stem cells. However, recent research has shown that UCB stem cells may also play a significant role in cell therapy and regenerative medicine. More specifically, additional studies using animal models have shown that UCB stem cells possess the potential to improve cardiac function, treat diseases of the central nervous system, and brain injury, including stroke. They may also be valuable in the treatment of children brain damaged due to hypoxic incidents during birth, and for use in gene therapy. This latest study suggests that they may also be useful in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

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