SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters Health) Feb 20 - Umbilical cord blood cells harvested from newborns could be as useful as cells taken from aborted fetuses for developing new treatments for brain disorders such as stroke and Parkinson's disease, according to findings released here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Experiments in mice with recent strokes have shown that when modified cord blood cells are injected intravenously, the cells migrate to the damaged area of the brain and begin to act as normal neurons, compensating for some of the function lost to stroke.
These early experiments suggest that mice can regain about 50% of lost function after treatment, with near-normal function observed after injection for some specific tasks, said Dr. Paul R. Sanberg, of the University of South Florida in Tampa.
For these experiments, he and colleagues pretreated the cells with retinoic acid and underwent other processes to make them more apt to behave like neurons after injection. In an unusual technique, the cells were injected into a vein instead of directly into the damaged brain region, through the skull, as Dr. Sanberg has done in the past with other kinds of cells. "In theory they should go all over the place, but they tend to be more in the stroked area," he said.
Because cord blood
cells are already being used to treat human diseases, Dr. Sanberg said
that human trials of cord blood to treat stroke might occur relatively
soon, perhaps within the next 2 years.
2000 Reuters Ltd.