Neuroprotection by human umbilical cord blood-derived progenitors in ischemic brain injuries

Hadar Arien-Zakay, Shimon Lecht, Armon Nagler, Philip Lazarovici


Stem cells have an extremely high potential to treat many devastating diseases, including neuronal injuries. Albeit the need for human neuronal stem cells, their quantities are very limited by relying on early human embryos as the main source. Therefore, progenitors of other origins, such as human umbilical cord blood (CB) are being considered. In the last decade, various populations isolated from the CB were reported to differentiate in vitro towards a neural phenotype. The conditions to induce the cell differentiation are not conclusive and may include addition of chemicals, cytokines and growth factors, including the nerve growth factor (NGF). Some CB cells were found to express the TrkA-NGF receptor, suggesting an endogenous role for this growth factor also in the CB environment. The ability of CB and derived stem cell populations to protect against neurological deficits was shown, both in vitro and in vivo, in models of ischemic brain injuries. In rodent models of stroke, heatstroke, brain trauma and brain damage at birth, CB cells either by intravenous injection or intrastriatal transplantation, were found to reduce the infarct size and the neurological deficits caused by the injury. The restorative effects of CB were suggested to be mediated by mechanisms other than cell replacement. Some of the proposed mechanisms involve reduced inflammation, nerve fiber reorganization by trophic actions, increased cell survival and enhanced angiogenesis. Furthermore, treatment with CB was found to have a therapeutic window of days compared with the present 3-6 hour window for the treatment of stroke with clinically available tools such as recombinant tissue plasminogen activator. Considering the encouraging results with whole CB and derived cells transplantation in ischemic injury models and since CB is widely available and have been used clinically, they may be an excellent source of cells for treatment of human brain ischemic disorders.


Human umbilical cord blood • Stemcells • Neuronal • NGF • Neuroprotection • Ischemia • Brain trauma • Stroke

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