A team headed by Carmelina Gemma, Ph.D., of the James A. Haley Veterans Administration Medical Center (VA) and USF, conducted a study on aged laboratory animals and discovered that the injection of human umbilical cord cells helps an aging brain.
In the study, human umbilical cord blood cells (UCBC) were injected into aged laboratory animals A research and improvements were found in the microenvironment of the hippocampus region of the animals' brains and a subsequent rejuvenation of neural stem/progenitor cells.
The research presents a possibility of a cell therapy aimed at rejuvenating the aged brain.
"Brain cell neurogenesis decreases dramatically with increasing age, mostly because of a growing impoverishment in the brain's microenvironment," said co-author Alison Willing, PhD, of the USF Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair.
"The increase in neurogenesis we saw after injecting UCBCs seemed to be due to a decrease in inflammation," added Willing.
According to Gemma, the decrease in neurogenesis that accompanies aging is a result of the decrease in proliferation of stem cells, not the loss of cells.
"In the brain, there are two stem cell pools, one of which resides in the hippocampus. As in other stem cell pools, the stem cells in the brain lose their capacity to generate new cells. A potent stressor of stem cell proliferation is inflammation," said Adam Bachstetter, graduate student and first author.
"We have shown that injections of UCBCs can reduce neuroinflammation," said co-author Paul R. Sanberg, Ph.D. D.Sc. director of the Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair.
"Our results raise the possibility that a cell therapy could be an effective approach to improving the microenvironment of the aged brain and restoring some lost capacity," he added.