Cell transplantation has been proposed as a potential approach to the treatment of neurological disorders. One cell population of interest consists of human umbilical cord blood (hUCB) cells, which have previously been shown to be useful for reparative medicine in haematological diseases. However, hUCB cells are also capable of differentiating into various non-haematopoietic cells, including those of the neural lineage. Moreover, hUCB cells can secrete numerous neurotrophic factors and modulate immune function and inflammatory reaction. Several studies on animal models of ischemic brain injury have demonstrated the potential of hUCB cells to minimize damage and promote recovery after ischemic brain injury.This review focuses on the treatment of both stroke and perinatal hypoxic-ischemic brain injury using hUCB cells. We discuss the therapeutic effects demonstrated after hUCB cell transplantation and emphasize possible mechanisms counteracting pathophysiological events of ischemia, thus leading to the generation of a regenerative environment that allows neural plasticity and functional recovery. The therapeutic functional effects of hUCB cells observed in animal models make the transplantation of hUCB cells a promising experimental approach in the treatment of ischemic brain injury. Together with its availability, low risk of transplantation, immaturity of cells, and simple route of application, hUCB transplantation may stand a good chance of being translated into a clinical setting for the therapy of ischemic brain injury.
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