Researchers from the University of South Florida and their private sector collaborators say transplanting stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood may offer future therapeutic benefit for those suffering the degenerative and ultimately fatal Alzheimer’s disease, which affects around 43,000 New Zealanders. Those figures are projected to double in the next 15 years, and to continue doubling every 20 years thereafter.
“Umbilical cord blood cells are relatively easy to obtain, appear to be able to differentiate into many kinds of cells, and are immunologically immature, offering them the potential to promote cell survival rather than play a cell replacement role when transplanted,” said Dr. Paul Sanberg, distinguished university professor and executive director of the Center of Excellence on Aging and Brain Repair at the University of South Florida.
One of the major causes of Alzheimer’s is deposits of amyloid beta (AB), a chemical that activates the immune response in the brain which leads to inflammation.
“It is likely that umbilical cord blood can modify this inflammatory response and provide beneficial effects in animal models of Alzheimer’s,” said Dr Jun Tan, professor of psychiatry and Robert A. Silver chair at the Rashid Laboratory for Developmental Neurobiology, USF Silver Child Development Center who recently completed a study in which the brain-to-blood clearance of AB was demonstrated. Based on the findings of this research, Dr. Tan is developing clinical protocols.
Umbilical cord blood cells transplanted into animal victims of Alzheimer’s have demonstrated their therapeutic potential for reducing inflammation, which prevents neurons in the brain from communicating properly.
“Our immediate goal is to move our beneficial findings with cord blood cells into clinical trials for patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Tan. To read more about the study, click here.