Umbilical Stem Cells Help Retinal Neurons Grow

Stem cell therapy has shown immense potential for the treatment of neurological disorders. Now, research has shown that stem cells found in human umbilical cord tissue could one day be used to treat degenerative eye diseases.
Human umbilical cord tissue-derived cells (hUTC) are currently under clinical investigation for the treatment of geographic atrophy secondary to age-related macular degeneration. According to the researchers from Duke University, “these cells show great promise for the treatment of neurological disorders; however, the therapeutic effects of these cells on CNS neurons are not fully understood.” In this study, compelling evidence is provided that hUTCs “secrete multiple factors that work synergistically to enhance synapse formation and function, and support neuronal growth and survival. Moreover, we identified thrombospondins (TSPs) as the hUTC-secreted factors that mediate the synaptogenic and growth-promoting functions of these cells.” The findings “highlight novel paracrine effects of hUTC on CNS neuron health and connectivity and begin to unravel potential therapeutic mechanisms by which these cells elicit their effects.”
Assistant professor of cell biology and neurobiology at Duke University Medical Centre, Cagla Eroglu, said: “By learning more about how these cells work, we are one step closer to understanding the disease states in which these cells should be studied.”

Read More