The use of human umbilical cord blood (hUCB) - a rich source of nonembryonic or adult stem cells - has recently been reported to ameliorate behavioral consequences of stroke. In this study, we tested whether human cord blood leukocytes also ameliorate behavioral impairments of spinal cord injury. Rats were divided into five groups: (1) laminectomy (without spinal cord injury) only; (2) laminectomy + cord blood infusion; (3) spinal cord injury + cord blood infused 1 day post injury; (4) spinal cord injury + cord blood infused 5 days post injury; and (5) spinal cord injury only. Spinal cord injury was induced by compressing the spinal cord for 1 min with an aneurysm clip calibrated to a closing pressure of 55 g. Open-field behavior was assessed 1, 2, and 3 weeks after intravenous injection of prelabeled human cord blood cells. Open-field test scores of spinal cord injured rats treated with human cord blood at 5 days were significantly improved as compared to scores of rats similarly injured but treated at day 1 as well as the otherwise untreated injured group. The results suggest that cord blood stem cells are beneficial in reversing the behavioral effects of spinal cord injury, even when infused 5 days after injury. Human cord blood-derived cells were observed in injured areas, but not in noninjured areas, of rat spinal cords, and were never seen in corresponding areas of spinal cord of noninjured animals. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that cord blood-derived stem cells migrate to and participate in the healing of neurological defects caused by traumatic assault.
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