August 13, 2014

Cord blood stem cells could soon be used to help stroke victims in their recovery. Almost 800,000 Americans suffer from a stroke each year, according to the CDC. It is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of serious long-term disability. Health care professionals agree that early treatment is key in reducing long-term effects following a stroke.

One treatment being studied is the use of umbilical cord blood stem cells to help counter the effects that stroke sufferers may experience. A particular study1 looked at how effective stem cells were over the course of six months when transplanted within one week of the stroke. For this study, researchers isolated a particular cell molecule, CD34+, and transplanted the cells directly into the patient’s damaged section of the brain.

The CD34+ molecule is found in umbilical cord blood. This molecule facilitates the adhesion of stem cells to bone marrow or stromal cells (connective tissue cells.)

The study was conducted with five patients of varying degrees of severity, with four of the five having considerably severe strokes that resulted in the inability to speak and partial paralysis. At the end of the study, all showed improvement and were mobile, and three of the five were self-sufficient in conducting their daily activities. This is good news when it comes to treating strokes, but it is still in the early phases of study. A larger group will need to be researched to learn the impact cord blood stem cells truly have for this type of treatment, but the results are promising!

In other stem cells studies on stroke victims, researchers have found that cord blood stem cells can change into neural ectodermal cells2 , which are outer layer cells that are the basis for brain, spinal and nerve cells. In this study the cells were grown in a lab before being transplanted into mice, where they found that the cells successfully integrated with the mice’s neural cells.

The young nature and flexibility of cord blood stem cells make them easier to convert into different types of cells and are what make them ideal for this type of treatment. This study looked at not only treatments for stroke victims but also for a range of neurological disorders including traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injuries.

More and more discoveries and studies like these are being done with umbilical cord blood stem cells and the results are promising in their continued and growing use in medical treatments in the future.

  1. Stem cells show promise in stroke recovery, Published Aug. 8, 2014, Found online: http://goo.gl/5afZEX
  2. Cord blood may help treat stroke, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord, Published July 16, 2012, Found online: http://goo.gl/FYVNlD
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