For the first time ever, stem cells from umbilical cords have been converted into other types of cells, which may eventually lead to new treatment options for spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis, among other nervous system diseases.
“This is the first time this has been done with non-embryonic stem cells,” says James Hickman, a University of Central Florida bioengineer and leader of the research group. ”We’re very excited about where this could lead because it overcomes many of the obstacles present with embryonic stem cells.”
Stem cells from umbilical cords do not pose an ethical dilemma because the cells come from a source that would otherwise be discarded. Another major benefit is that umbilical cells generally have not been found to cause immune reactions, which would simplify their potential use in medical treatments.