March 24, 2014

A study using a combination of stem cells offers hope for veterans, football players and others with traumatic brain injuries.

The preclinical study by neuroscientists at the Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine involved a combination of human umbilical cord cells and a growth factor known as granulocyte stimulating factor administered to lab rats, according to a statement.

Supported by the U.S. Department of Defense, the study found that the stem cell combination therapy improves traumatic brain injury outcomes.

The combination therapy “significantly reduced” the loss of neuronal cells in the hippocampus, and showed the best motor improvements in the lab animals, said Cesar Borlongan, study leader and director of the center for aging and brain repair.

The study’s outcome “may indicate that the stem cells had more widespread biological action that the drug therapy,” said Paul Sanberg, USF professor and principal investigator of the project, in a statement. He is founder of Saneron CCEL Therapeutics Inc., which provided the cord blood for the study.

Each year, nearly two million Americans sustain traumatic brain injuries, including members of the military and professional athletes in contact sports. The injuries cause motor, behavioral, intellectual and cognitive disabilities.

Last year, the National Football Leaguereached a proposed settlement with thousands of retired players who sued the league, claiming they are affected by brain injuries sustained while they were playing in the league. The NFL and the players reached a proposed settlement of $765 million.

Jane Meinhardt’s beats include health care, law firms and lawyers.


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