The effects of human umbilical cord blood transplantation in rats with experimentally induced spinal cord injury

Laboratory investigation

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Even though there have been many efforts to recover neuronal dysfunction following spinal cord injuries, there are limitations to the treatment of these injuries. The purpose of this laboratory investigation was to determine the clinical and neurophysiological effects of human umbilical cord blood (HUCB) transplantation in a rat hemisection model of spinal cord injury.


In this study, experimental hemisection of the thoracic spinal cord was performed in rats. The rats were divided into 4 groups (6 rats in each group). One group of rats (Group 1) underwent thoracic laminectomy only. Rats in Group 2 underwent laminectomy and right hemisection of the thoracic spinal cord. Rats in Group 3 underwent right hemisection and implantation of freshly obtained HUCB on Day 0 postinjury. Rats in Group 4 underwent hemisection and implantation of freshly obtained HUCB on Day 4 postinjury. Clinical evaluations of rat motor function included the following: neurological examination, Rotarod performance, and inclined plane tests. Rats also underwent reflex evaluation.


The neurological examinations revealed that the frequency of plegic rats was 70.8% at the beginning of the study across all 4 groups; this value decreased to 20.8% by the end of the study. The percentage of rats with a normal examination increased from 25% to 50%. The results of Rotarod performance and 8-week inclined plane performance tests showed statistical significance (p < 0.05) in an overall group comparison across all time points. At the end of the 8 weeks, a statistically significant difference was found in the inclined plane test results between rats in Groups 1 and 2. There were no statistically significant differences between Groups 1, 3, and 4 (p < 0.05). When the reflex responses of the hemisectioned sides were compared, statistically significant differences were detected between groups (p < 0.05). All groups were significantly different with regard to the right-side reflex response score (p < 0.05). Spinal cord preparations of rats in all groups were examined for histopathological changes.


Human umbilical cord blood is stem cell rich and easily available, and it carries less risk of inducing a graft-versus-host reaction in the recipient. Human umbilical cord blood serum is also noted to contain stem cell–promoting factors, which is why cell isolation was not used in this study. Freshly obtained cord blood was also used because storage of cord blood has been reported to have some negative effects on stem cells. Transplantation of freshly obtained HUCB into the hemisectioned spinal cord experimental model demonstrated clinical and neurophysiological improvement.

Abbreviations used in this paper: BBB = Basso-Beattie-Bresnahan; BDNF = brain-derived neurotrophic factor; BrdU = bromodeoxyuridine; HUCB = human umbilical cord blood; SCI = spinal cord injury.

Article Information

Address correspondence to: Bayram Cirak, M.D., Department of Neurosurgery, Pamukkale University Medical School, Kinikli /Denizli, Turkey. email:

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.



  • View in gallery

    Bar graph showing neurological evaluation of the rats at the beginning (Week 0) and at the end of the study (Week 8).

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    Bar graph showing neurological evaluation of the rats in Group 2 at Weeks 0 and 8.

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    Bar graph showing neurological evaluation of the rats in Group 3 at Weeks 0 and 8.

  • View in gallery

    Bar graph showing neurological evaluation of the rats in Group 4 at Weeks 0 and 8.

  • View in gallery

    Bar graph showing the anterior rootlets reflex measurement of the right and left sciatic nerve (amplitude).



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