March 11, 2015

Umbilical cord blood stem cells are commonly used in the treatments of many diseases and disorders with high levels of success. Another treatment type gaining momentum is the use of gene therapy on stem cells for the management of serious bodily injuries. Injury types include those of the brain or spinal cord, bone or cartilage and of the skin, most often on serious wound or burn patients. In-depth medical experiments are showing that mediated umbilical cord stem cells are showing promise for more effective results in injury treatments.

An example of this1 was reported this month in the Molecular Medicine Reports, outlining the results of a full-thickness skin repair study performed successfully on mice. In the China-based Nanchang University study, researchers looked at the healing rate of 45 hairless mice with posterior full-thickness skin defects. The researchers were particularly interested in assessing the healing effects of umbilical cord blood mesenchymal stem cells that had been subjected to a lab-induced production of Homeobox A4 (HOXA4), a gene responsible for protein encoding. For this, lentiviral (slow viruses with long incubation period) nucleic acids were introduced in to the stem cells in an effort to increase its production of the HOXA4 gene. The cord blood mesenchymal stem cells underwent a 21-day culture and transfection process prior to administration to the mice.

For the study, the mice divided into three randomly-chosen treatment groups. The three groups consisted of those receiving treatments with: an unmodified or reinforced collagen membrane, a lenti‑induced HOXA4 cord blood seed stem cell collagen membrane, or a collagen membrane containing a glowing “reporter” lentivirus protein.

Researchers collected weekly tissue samples from the mice and used flow cytometry to record the individual physical and chemical characteristics. They noted that the HOXA4 cord blood stem cells grew and differentiated into epidermal cells. At the conclusion of the three-week experiment, researchers found that mice treated with the HOXA4-induced cord blood stem cells re-epithelialized faster over the wound and showed a thicker epidermis than the other two groups. These results supported their theory that the cord blood stem cells would promote greater wound healing.

The results are evidentiary for cord blood stem cells’ ability to heal, even further validating the importance of cord blood banking. More research will undoubtedly be conducted in this area of treatment to unlock its imminent potential for human healing. Discoveries being made with stem cell research, such as this, are fascinating, and cord blood banking now means options for your family in the future.

  • He, L., Tu, H., et al., (2015) Lentiviral-mediated overexpression of homeobox A4 by human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells repairs full-thickness skin defects. Molecular Medicine Reports, http://dx.doi.org/10.3892/mmr.2015.3208
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