Tampa, FL (April 25, 2002) The University of South Florida Center for Aging and Brain Repair has been awarded a $1.3-million federal grant to study whether stem cells from human umbilical cord blood (HUCB) can rescue the brain from age-related decline.
Using an animal model, the 5-year, National Institute on Aging study will address critical questions about HUBC cells' true potential to successfully treat the normal mental declines of aging as well as neurodegenerative diseases.
Studies at USF and elsewhere have suggested that HUCB may be a noncontroversial and more readily available source of therapeutic cells for treating neurological diseases like Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease and brain injuries such as stroke.
"We can change the destiny of a portion of these cells so that they take on the characteristics of neurons," said Tanja Zigova, PhD, principal investigator for the grant and assistant professor of neurosurgery at the Center for Aging and Brain Repair, USF College of Medicine.
"Our ultimate goal is to find out how to turn enough of them into specialized neurons that would read specific cues from the brain, migrate where we want them to go, and produce the types of neurotransmittters (chemical messengers) that must be replenished to restore brain function."
"One aspect of the research is to determine if the HUCB cells can be used to try to reverse age-related declines in learning and memory," said USF neuroscientist Paula Bickford, PhD, a co-investigator for the study. "If we observe such a change in aged rats, then perhaps it will be possible to use this approach for human aging. Clearly, there is a lot of work to be done before we take that step, and this award makes it possible for us to do that work."
Cord blood cells include a significant number of stem cells immature, unspecialized cells with the potential to become any cell in the body, including neurons. Researchers at the USF Center for A
Contact: Anne DeLotto Baier
University of South Florida Health