For over 30 years, doctors have been using cord blood stem cells to treat life threatening conditions. However, the potential uses of stem cells are even more exciting.
Researchers believe that stem cells may be used to treat currently incurable conditions like type 1 diabetes, arthritis, brain injuries, and heart disease. To help you learn more, this article will share the current and future benefits of cord blood for you and your family.
Current Uses Of Cord Blood
Cord blood stem cells are used to treat more than 80 different blood disorders, cancers, metabolic disorders, and immune disorders. Many of these conditions are debilitating or life-threatening.
As of 2017, over 40,000 umbilical cord blood transplantations have been performed and over 25,000 patients have been cured using stem cells. There are now more than 700,000 cord blood samples stored in public cord blood banks and thousands more in private banks. Some of the illnesses that can be treated using cord blood include:
Leukemia, Lymphoma, Chronic Active Epstein Barr, Ewing Sarcoma, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Leukocyte Adhesion Deficiency, Multiple Myeloma, Neuroblastoma, Rhabdomyosarcoma, Thymoma (Thymic Carcinoma), and Wilms Tumor
- Blood Disorders
Acute Myelofibrosis, Amyloidosis, Aplastic Anaemia, Beta Thalassemia Major, Congenital Dyserythropoietic Anemia, Fanconi Anemia, Myelodysplastic Syndrome, Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria (PNH), Pure Red Cell Aplasia, Sickle Cell Disease
- Immune Disorders
Adenosine Deaminase Deficiency (SCID), Chronic Granulomatous Disease, Congenital Neutropenia, Evans Syndrome, Enteropathy, X-linked (IPEX) Syndrome, Kostmann Syndrome (SCID), Myelokathexis, Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Diseases (SCID), Thymic Dysplasia, X-linked Agammaglobulinemia.
- Metabolic Disorders
Gunther Disease, Gaucher Disease, Hunter Syndrome, Krabbe Disease, Metachromatic Leukodystrophy, Sandhoff Disease, Tay Sachs, Wolman Disease, X-Linked Adrenoleukodystroph
All of these conditions use the hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) contained within cord blood. HSCs are ‘blood-forming’ stem cells which can differentiate into any type of blood cell. Much of the latest research involves the use of cord blood’s mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which are multipotent cells capable of turning into several cell types.
What are the most promising clinical trials?
There are currently dozens of exciting stem cell research projects and clinical trials underway. Here are some details of the most promising developments.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects the body’s movements. It is caused by a loss of nerve cells in the part of the brain called the substantia nigra, which can affect dopamine levels.
Researchers from around the globe have joined together to form a “Parkinson’s Global Force” which is looking into the use of stem cells to treat this disease. Several trials have already shown that stem cells can regenerate nerve cells, which means they may be able to help the brain recover and reverse the progress of this terrible disease.
One recent study involved seven patients with moderate Parkinson’s disease. They received donor matched allogenic stem cells to avoid genetic influence of the disease. The study found that the treatment could be performed safely. Further research is required to learn how effective stem cell therapy may be.
Type I diabetes is a chronic condition where the pancreas produces an insufficient amount of insulin. It is a life-threatening disease, because of its severe symptoms and the risk of insulin shock (hypoglycemia).
There have been many research projects looking into the use of stem cells to treat type 1 diabetes over the past decade. Researchers believe the engraftment of insulin-producing beta cells will help the patient’s pancreas produce sufficient insulin. A German clinical trial that is currently underway is testing the safety of this type of procedure. If found to be successful, it could lead to a diabetes treatment which helps millions of people.
Spinal cord injury
Stem cells may be also useful for treating injuries which have caused damage to the nervous system, including spinal cord injuries. Researchers have already discovered that stem cells and oligo-dendrocyte progenitors can promote growth in axons and improve neural connectivity.
The challenge that researchers face is delivering stem cells so they repair the damaged components in the spine. A recent Japanese study involved 13 patients with spinal-cord injury. It found that the patients regained some lost sensation and mobility. There are several other studies looking into the use of mesenchymal stem cells, which are found in cord blood, for treating spinal cord injury.
There are dozens of currently registered clinical trials looking into new stem cell-based therapies for treating ocular diseases. It is a popular research topic because the eye is an immune privileged site, which means it can tolerate stem cell transplants well.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
ALS is a devastating neurodegenerative disease that causes degeneration of the body’s motor neurons, causing a loss of motor function. Researchers have already tested the use of mesenchymal stem cells on mice with positive results. There are several planned and ongoing clinical trials on the way to assess the safety of using stem cells this way.
What Future Benefits Can These Clinical Trials Provide To The Baby & Family?
Storing your child’s umbilical cord blood stem cells means you have complete control over a valuable medical resource which can be used in many different ways. Cord blood can be used today to treat many cancers, blood disorders, metabolic disorders, and immune disorders.
In the future, having cord blood available could mean your child or a close relative can recover more easily from a neurodegenerative condition, spinal injury, or ocular disease. It may even be useful for treating minor injuries or improving a family member’s quality of life.
To learn more about the potential uses of cord blood stem cells, contact us or visit our blog.