The Effect of Umbilical Cord Blood Cells on Outcomes After Experimental Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2010 Jul 15;35(16):1520-6. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e3181c3e963.


Study design: A cytokine expression profile of umbilical cord blood (UCB) derived multipotential stem cells (MPSC) was produced. We then transplanted MPSCs into a rat model of spinal cord injury (SCI) and assessed neurologic function as well as spinal cord histology.

Objective: To determine if MPSCs transplanted into a rat model of acute SCI would lead to a beneficial neurologic effect.

Summary of background data: Conditioned medium from UCB contains factors that could promote healing of endogenous neural tissues. Previously, our laboratory has demonstrated that UCB hematopoietic cells can develop into MPSCs capable of differentiating into multiple cell types including oligodendrocyte-like cells.

Methods: We cultured MPSCs from UCB cells using fibroblast growth factor 4, stem cell factor and fms-like tyrosine kinase receptor-3 ligand supplemented serum-free medium. Using a cytokine antibody array, we produced a cytokines expression profile of MPSCs. We then transplanted MPSCs into an immunosuppressed rat model of SCI and assessed neurologic function weekly for 6 weeks by the Basso, Beattie, and Bresnahan locomotor test. The spinal cords were examined histologically and lesion areas quantified.

Results: We detected elevated levels of cytokines and growth factors with known neuroprotective, angiogenic, and anti-inflammatory effects in the MPSC conditioned media. The SCI rats treated with MPSCs showed a significant improvement in Basso, Beattie, and Bresnahan scores after 6 weeks compared with the group that received vehicle only. Immunohistochemistry revealed transplanted human cells were present in the injured spinal cord after 1 week, but were no longer present by 6 weeks. There was a trend for the lesion size in treated rats to be smaller than that of the control group.

Conclusion: We conclude that UCB MPSCs improve neurologic function of rats with acute SCI, possibly by the release of factors that reduce secondary injury.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cord Blood Stem Cell Transplantation / methods*
  • Culture Media, Serum-Free / metabolism
  • Culture Media, Serum-Free / pharmacology
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Multipotent Stem Cells / cytology
  • Multipotent Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Multipotent Stem Cells / transplantation*
  • Oligodendroglia / cytology
  • Oligodendroglia / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / pathology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / physiopathology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / therapy*


  • Culture Media, Serum-Free
  • Cytokines