A group of University of Minnesota researchers has discovered a new population of cells in human umbilical cord blood that have the properties of primitive stem cells.
This is significant because cord blood is generally known to contain stem cells that can only produce cells found in blood. The new findings, however, identify a small population of cord blood cells with the characteristics of stem cells that have the potential to produce a greater variety of cell types.
“We are excited by this discovery because it provides additional insight into how stem cells can restore function in the brain after injury,” says Walter Low, Ph.D., the study’s senior investigator and professor in the Department of Neuro-surgery and the Stem Cell Institute.
The research, published in the journal Stem Cells and Development, holds future potential for regenerating nerve tissue in those who have suffered a stroke. When researchers transplanted the human cord blood stem cells into lab rodents with stroke symptoms, the rodents showed improved use of their limbs and significant reductions in the size of their brain lesions.