Infant cord blood could help patients with sepsis, inflammation

Researchers at the University of Utah have discovered that a factor found in umbilical cord blood can be used to fight inflammation and sepsis in adults.

The scientists, who published their work in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, found that when the factor was given to mice, it reversed fever, altered respiratory rates and death. But the factor can only be found in newborns less than two weeks old.

Inflammation can damage healthy tissue as an overreaction to infection. But the cord blood factor nNIF, which stands for neonatal NET inhibitory factor, demonstrated in mice to give them three times the survival rate.

"Sepsis is a case where the body's reaction to infection is lethal," co-author Christian Con Yost said in a statement. "nNIF is offering insights into how to keep the inflammatory response within prescribed limits."

The fact that the factor exists in newborns for only about two weeks is an intriguing prospect. This factor technically lowers the body’s defenses, which is something to a newborn would seem counterintuitive. But it could also help the baby overcome the bacteria present at birth, scientists think.

"The beginning of life is a delicate balance," said Yost. "Our work is showing that it is important to have the right defenses, but they have to be controlled."