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Menstrual Blood Stem Cells Could Repair Stroke Damage to the Brain

Sep 30, 2010 – 1:20 PM
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(Sept. 30) -- Stem cells derived from menstrual blood are hitting the laboratory, with researchers speculating that a woman's period might be a boon for recovering stroke patients.

A collaboration between researchers at the University of South Florida, along with a stem cell company and a biotech firm, will investigate the efficacy of transplanted menstrual-blood-derived stem cells in repairing brain damage incurred by a stroke.

Blood vessels and neurons in the brain are both needed to help repair the brain after a stroke, and stem cells would spur the growth of both vital components.

In fact, research has already indicated that lab mice respond positively to the approach.

Not to mention that the stem cells are readily accessible, in relatively unlimited supply, and presumably easy to obtain -- although researchers didn't disclose exactly how they're being sourced.

This isn't the first time science has sought menstrual blood as a source of stem cells. In 2008, a team at Indiana University concluded that the stem cells could prevent limb amputations caused by peripheral artery disease.

And Michigan-based researchers in 2007 pinned down a specific type of menstrual stem cell that's capable of differentiating into more tissue types (from fat to muscle to nerve) than standard adult stem cells.

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And given the ongoing debates over the use of embryonic stem cells in medical research, effective alternatives could fast-track new discoveries into the possibly widespread potential of stem cells in medical practice. Could a tampon-like kit for collecting menstrual blood expressly for the purpose of harvesting stem cells be far behind?

"Menstrual blood offers an adult stem cell alternative that circumvents the ethical and logistical limitations of embryonic stem cells," Dr. Cesar Borlongan, a neurologist at the University of South Florida, said in a statement. "And their retrieval offers greater ease, and with a wider window of opportunity for harvest than other adult stem cells."

Researchers are now prepping a new study, in an effort to better understand how the stem cells repair molecular and cellular damage in mice who've suffered a stroke.

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