Umbilical-Cord Cells Reportedly Repair Brain Damage

Could Be Alternative to Embryo Destruction

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SAN FRANCISCO, California, FEB. 19, 2001 ( say stem cells found in the blood of umbilical cords could be used to repair the brain damage suffered by stroke victims, BBC reported.

Such a procedure would be an alternative to the taking of cells from human embryos and destroying them — a controversial process now advocated by many researchers.

The new treatment has been tested on rats with encouraging results and could be in human trials within a couple of years.

If the new research, announced at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), lives up to its potential, “banking” of cords at birth could become a common practice, BBC said.

Paul Sanberg, of the University of South Florida, took stem cells — progenitor cells that can become other types of cell — from the blood of umbilical cords, BBC said. He directed them in the lab with chemical agents to become immature neuronal cells and then injected them into the veins of rats that had suffered strokes.

The cells migrated to the sites of brain injury and dramatically improved the recovery of the animals. Sanberg told the AAAS: “The animals moved better. Using motor and neurological tests, the rats demonstrated recovery in seven to 14 days with a 50% improvement over the control animals.”

Not only did the injected cells replace those damaged by the stroke, they also appeared to boost the rodents´ own brain-repair processes, the scientist said. Sanberg has yet to publish his work in a peer-reviewed journal. He hopes to take the rat work into human trials within one-and-a-half to two years.

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