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Cord Blood Cells Boost Brainpower

Wednesday, 01 Aug 2012 10:51 AM


Blood cells taken from the umbilical cord and placenta have been used for decades to treat everything from cancer and immune disorders to blood and metabolic diseases. Now, scientists have developed a way to enlist cord blood cells to treat a range of neurological health problems, as well.
Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have found a way to use a single protein to convert cord blood cells into neuron-like cells that may prove to be potent weapons in the treatment of stroke, brain damage, spinal cord injury and other sometimes-debilitating conditions.
Additional progress in refining the technique might also allow it to be applied to a wide range of other mental-health conditions, said the researchers in a report on their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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"We could use these cells in the future for modeling neurological diseases such as autism, schizophrenia, Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease," said Salk researcher Carol Marchetto.
Cord blood cells offer a number of advantages over other types of stem cells, said co-researcher Alessandra Giorgetti, of the Center for Regenerative Medicine, in Barcelona. First, they are not embryonic stem cells and are not controversial. They are more flexible than adult stem cells from sources like bone marrow, which may make them easier to convert into specific cell lineages. The collection of cord blood cells is safe and painless and poses no risk to the donor.
In addition, they can be stored in blood banks for later use.
"If our protocol is developed into a clinical application, it could aid in future cell-replacement therapies," said Salk researcher Guang-Hui Liu. "You could search all the cord blood banks in the country to look for a suitable match."
SPECIAL: Improving Memory Can Reduce Alzheimer's Risk


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New treatments derived from cord blood cells are targeting stroke, brain damage and other neurological problems.
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Wednesday, 01 Aug 2012 10:51 AM
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