New Technology Looks to Improve Treatment of Neurodegenerative Diseases

USF has been granted a patent for a cell transplantation procedure combining human umbilical cord blood cells and mannitol that could significantly impact the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

The University of South Florida’s Department of Neurosurgery and Brain Repair has been granted a patent for a cell transplantation procedure combining human umbilical cord blood (HUCB) cells and mannitol, a sugar-alcohol compound, that could significantly impact the treatment of life-threatening neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and stroke, among others.

The technology administers the neuroprotective effect of umbilical cord blood cells along with mannitol to permeabilize the blood-brain barrier, allowing for the increased entry of therapeutic growth factors, according to an online report. Saneron CCEL Therapeutics, Inc., a biotechnology startup company, has licensed the technology.

“Given the devastating effects of stroke, it is imperative that we develop new therapies to minimize damage to the brain as well as repair the damage,” said Saneron’s President and COO, Nicole Kuzmin-Nichols.

While transplanted HUCB cells may benefit several neurological diseases, getting them past the blood-brain-barrier has been an issue; this barrier separates circulating blood and cerebral spinal fluid in the central nervous system. The new technology is based on mannitol acting as a blood-brain barrier permeabilizer to help get the therapeutic substances secreted by HUCB cells past the blood-brain barrier and into the central nervous system. Mannitol, which works to temporarily shrink the tight cells that make up the barrier, allows HUCB cells to reach the site of injury or disease via their secreted factors.

"Human umbilical cord blood contains a high percentage of stem cells that when intravenously administered can survive and differentiate into neurons in the damaged brain. Equally appealing is their ability to secrete beneficial molecules that potentially promote behavioral recovery," said Dr. Cesar Borlongan, co-inventor and a USF neuroscientist and professor and consultant for Saneron. "Because the blood-brain barrier regulates the entry of many blood-borne substances into the brain, it may exclude potentially therapeutic substances."

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