How Umbilical Cord Stem Cells Supports Healthy Physical Aging

by | Dec 29, 2023 | Longevity, Stem Cell Therapy | 0 comments

Aging is a hot topic these days, especially as the baby boomer generation enters their senior years. Everyone is looking for ways to age gracefully and maintain health as long as possible. Key strategies known to support healthy aging include maintaining an active lifestyle, consuming a diet low in processed foods, and keeping the mind sharp through reading and mental games.

But despite our best efforts in creating healthy habits, aging is inevitable; it’s a natural part of life’s cycle. All we can do is try and support our bodies the best we can. Alongside these conventional approaches, a new method is emerging that shows promise in promoting healthy physical aging: umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cell (UC-MSC) therapy. This innovative treatment is gaining attention as a potential way to enhance the body’s ability to renew and repair itself, offering a complementary approach to traditional aging interventions.

What is aging?

There are many processes involved with aging, but they can be categorized into three main groups.The first, molecular changes, are hallmarks of aging that include changes in DNA, genetic alterations, cellular recycling processes, and mitochondrial function (the cells’ energy source). These changes add to a variety of aging-related issues, such as DNA damage, reduced cell division, altered gene expression, the buildup of harmful proteins, and a decrease in cellular energy all which add to how we feel aging in our bodies. The second are cellular changes that affect critical aspects like cell division, the availability of stem cells, and intercellular communication. These effects of these show up as reduced ability for tissue repair, cell function disruptions, and increased risk of developing chronic diseases. Finally, systemic changes that relate to nutrient sensing, or how our bodies respond and use nutrients from food. As we age, cells may not effectively use nutrients, leading to imbalances and health issues like metabolic disorders.

What are umbilical cord MSCs

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) stand out as a powerful tool in regenerative medicine due to their abilities to restore and repair cells. They are multipotent, which means they can transform into different cell types, including bone, cartilage, and fat cells. They also have self-renewal properties allowing  them to maintain their populations over extended periods, an important feature in therapeutic applications. 2

MSCs are found in three main sources—bone marrow, umbilical cord blood, and adipose tissue. Of these, umbilical cord MSCs (UC-MSCs) have appeared to be most effective for several reasons. They can multiply at faster rates than other MSCs and are able to differentiate into the three primary cell layers, making them vital in tissue repair processes.3

UC-MSCs have several other advantages: their collection is non-invasive, they present a lower risk of infection, demonstrate multipotency, have minimal tumor formation risk, and have low immunogenicity (the likelihood of triggering an immune response).4 These factors, combined with their lower potential for controversy and availability compared to embryonic and bone marrow stem cells, position them as a desirable option for various clinical applications.

How UC-MSCs can support physical aging

As we age, we often face symptoms that impact both our physical and mental well-being. Physically, aging can lead to decreased mobility and muscle function, and increased susceptibility to illness and diseases. Mentally, it might manifest as memory decline, reduced cognitive function, or emotional issues such as loneliness or depression. Understanding these challenges and having effective treatments is crucial in promoting a healthier, more supportive aging process.

Aging Frailty

Frailty is a term that refers to the noticeable deterioration in an individual’s strength, endurance, energy, and physiological functions as they grow older. 5  At the heart of frailty lies a condition known as sarcopenia, characterized by the loss of muscle mass, strength, and functionality. Recent studies highlight the potential of UC-MSC treatments in reducing inflammation, enhancing mitochondrial function, and improving the extracellular matrix, which is vital for muscle cell growth and repair.6 These contribute to restoring muscle fatigue and boosting overall muscle function. Further, studies in aging mice show that the protective effects of UC-MSCs act on specific pathways crucial for managing muscle energy. This not only increases muscle mass but also improves physical performance. 7

Cognitive decline

One major concern in aging involves brain health. Declining memory, foggy thinking, and decreased planning skills are just a few of the symptoms of cognitive decline. This can also escalate to more severe neurological disorders such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s diseases. Research has shown promising results with UC-MSC treatments that have significantly enhanced learning and memory capabilities in mice, as well as improving synaptic plasticity, which is crucial for the communication between brain cells.8 These improvements are partly due to the treatments’ ability to stimulate the brain’s natural ability to generate new cells, thereby enhancing overall brain function.

In the specific context of Alzheimer’s disease UC-MSC therapy can lead to noticeable decrease in the production of amyloid-beta and tau proteins, which are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s, by decreasing the inflammatory processes.9

Immune system

As we age, our immune system’s efficacy decreases, leaving us more susceptible to illnesses and longer and more difficult recovery times. This decline, known as immunosenescence, involves the dysregulation in the production and function of immune cells, leading to heightened inflammation and a greater risk of chronic diseases and severe infections. 10

A key player in our immune system is the thymus, an organ responsible for maintaining immune balance and producing T-cells, a type of white blood cell critical for immune responses. With age, the thymus gets smaller, impairing its ability to effectively produce and deploy T-cells. However, studies have shown that using UC-MSCs can lead to notable changes in the size and function of the thymus, indicating a potential revitalizing effect. This regeneration could significantly benefit the aging population by enhancing immune function and potentially mitigating the effects of immunosenescence.11

What this all means

The potential of umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells (UC-MSCs) is becoming increasingly recognized for their regenerative and anti-inflammatory properties, making them a promising strategy against aging-related conditions such as frailty, cognitive decline, and diminished immune function. The capability of these cells to repair and renew tissues presents a valuable opportunity to tackle the intricate challenges of aging. Although the full scope of UC-MSCs’ clinical applications is still unfolding, ongoing research provides a hopeful outlook, suggesting we are on the right path to effectively utilizing these cells for therapeutic benefits in combating the effects of aging.


  • Guo, J., Huang, X., Dou, L. Mingjing, Y., Shen, T.(2022) Aging and aging-related diseases: from molecular mechanisms to interventions and treatments. Sig Transduct Target Ther 7, 391 .
  • Li, Z., Hu, X., & Zhong, J. F. (2019). Mesenchymal Stem Cells: Characteristics, Function, and Application. Stem cells international, 2019, 8106818.
  • Nishimura, T., Yamaguchi, S., Yoshimura, K., Rubinstein, P., & Takahashi, T. A. (2011). Isolation and characterization of mesenchymal stem cells from human umbilical cord blood: reevaluation of critical factors for successful isolation and high ability to proliferate and differentiate to chondrocytes as compared to mesenchymal stem cells from bone marrow and adipose tissue. Journal of cellular biochemistry, 112(4), 1206–1218.
  • Nagamura-Inoue, T., & He, H. (2014). Umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells: Their advantages and potential clinical utility. World journal of stem cells, 6(2), 195–202.
  • Schulman, I. H., Balkan, W., & Hare, J. M. (2018). Mesenchymal stem cell therapy for aging frailty. Frontiers in Nutrition, 5, 108.
  • Wang, C., Zhao, B., Zhai, J. et al. (2023) Clinical-grade human umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells improved skeletal muscle dysfunction in age-associated sarcopenia mice. Cell Death Dis 14, 321.
  • Piao, L., Huang, Z., Inoue, A., Kuzuya, M., & Cheng, X. W. (2022). Human umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stromal cells ameliorate aging-associated skeletal muscle atrophy and dysfunction by modulating apoptosis and mitochondrial damage in SAMP10 mice. Stem cell research & therapy, 13(1), 226.
  • Cao, N., Liao, T., Liu, J., Fan, Z., Zeng, Q., Zhou, J., Pei, H., Xi, J., He, L., Chen, L., Nan, X., Jia, Y., Yue, W., & Pei, X. (2017). Clinical-grade human umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells reverse cognitive aging via improving synaptic plasticity and endogenous neurogenesis. Cell death & disease, 8(8), e2996.
  • Hyun Ju Lee, Jong Kil Lee, Hyun Lee, Janet E. Carter, Jong Wook Chang, Wonil Oh, Yoon Sun Yang, Jun-Gyo Suh, Byoung-Hee Lee, Hee Kyung Jin, Jae-sung Bae. (2012). Human umbilical cord blood-derived mesenchymal stem cells improve neuropathology and cognitive impairment in an Alzheimer’s disease mouse model through modulation of neuroinflammation. Neurobiology of Aging. 33,3:588-602.
  • Yeo, G. E. C., Ng, M. H., Nordin, F. B., & Law, J. X. (2021). Potential of mesenchymal stem cells in the rejuvenation of the aging immune system. International journal of molecular sciences, 22(11), 5749.
  • Pan, X. H., Lin, Q. K., Yao, X., Li, Z. A., Cai, X. M., Pang, R. Q., & Ruan, G. P. (2020). Umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells protect thymus structure and function in aged C57 mice by downregulating aging-related genes and upregulating autophagy- and anti-oxidative stress-related genes. Aging, 12(17), 16899–16920.

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