A newborn baby’s umbilical cord blood contains unique stem cells which have a high level of therapeutic value. In this article, we’ll discuss about the medical benefits of umbilical cord blood stem cells and how it can help protect your baby and your family’s health in the future.
Among the major types fo stem cells found within the cord blood are hematopoietic stem cells also known as HSCs, which are currently used to treat more than 85 medical conditions including metabolic disorders, blood disorders, and certain types of cancers.
Hematopoietic stem cells have the ability to create new blood cells. When transplanted, HSCs can renew the body’s ability to generate healthy blood cells and immune system function. That makes them particularly useful for a wide variety of diseases and conditions where the body has lost its ability to make blood cells or immune cells correctly.
The first successful umbilical cord blood stem cell transplant occurred in 1988, when a young boy was treated for Fanconi anaemia using his newborn sister’s cord blood. Over 40,000 cord blood stem cell transplants have taken place around the world since then. Currently, approximately 1 in 3 hematopoietic stem cell transplants are performed using umbilical cord blood.
Medical conditions currently treated with umbilical cord blood stem cells:
- Acute Leukaemia
- Chronic Leukaemia
- High-Risk Solid Tumors
- Hodgkin & Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
- Myelodysplastic Syndromes
- Aplastic Anemia
- Beta Thalassemia
- Diamond-Blackfan Anemia
- Fanconi Anemia
- Sickle Cell Disease
- Chronic Granulomatous Disease
- Histiocytic Disorders
- Leukocyte Adhesion Deficiency
- Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Diseases
- Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome
- Krabbe Disease
- Hurler Syndrome
- Metachromatic Leukodystrophy
- Sanfilippo Syndrome
More benefits of umbilical cord blood stem cells
One of the main benefits of umbilical cord blood stem cells is that they are less likely to be rejected after a transplant, compared to bone marrow stem cells. This is because the stem cells from cord blood are less mature and less likely to trigger an immune system response.
The immature hematopoietic stem cells found in umbilical cord blood are also less likely to trigger Graft versus Host disease (GVHD). GVHD is a condition where the transplanted cells view the patient’s cells as foreign and begin to attack them.
Another benefit of umbilical cord blood stem cells is that it is a non-controversial source of multipotent stem cells. Multipotent stem cells have the ability to differentiate into various types of cells. That makes them particularly useful in the field of regenerative medicine, which hopes to develop therapies that regenerate and repair human tissue. Some of the multipotent stem cells from the cord blood can regenerate skin, nerves, ligaments, tendons, organs, muscle and much more.
Unlike the more controversial foetal stem cells, which come from the tissue of an unborn baby, umbilical cord blood is usually discarded after a baby has been born. By saving the umbilical cord blood, you are preserving valuable stem cells that would have been thrown away.
Exciting New Stem Cell Research Projects
Many stem cell research projects are using the multipotent stem cells from the cord blood. Amongst those stem cells are mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which have the ability to differentiate into osteoblasts (bone cells), myocytes (muscle cells), chondrocytes (cartilage cells) and adipocytes (fat cells) (DT, 2015).
The ability of these stem cells to generate different types of cells is helping scientists to develop new therapies that regenerate damaged or diseased tissue. Mesenchymal stem cells are particularly valuable because they can secrete growth factors and cytokines (cell signaling proteins), which are useful in the treatment of diseases and to help with tissue regeneration. There is also potential to grow new organs with multipotent stem cells — a very exciting prospect.
Some of the latest stem cell research projects using umbilical cord blood stem cells include:
Cord Blood Stem Cells Treating Spinal Injuries
Researchers in Sweden have successfully restored sensory function of mice with paraplegia by using stem cells. Learn more
Stem Cells Used to Treat Brain Injuries
Doctors have used stem cells to greatly improve the medical outcomes for children with traumatic brain injuries. When treated with stem cells, the children required less therapeutic intervention (including drugs with serious side effects). Learn more
Stem Cells May be Used to Re-grow Limbs
Researchers in the United States have managed to regrow the limb of a rat with stem cells. The limb has functioning vascular and muscle tissue. The breakthrough gives hope to millions of amputee sufferers around the world. Learn more
Stem Cell Treatment for Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is one of the most painful and debilitating chronic illnesses. Researchers in Rotterdam have discovered that Mesenchymal stem cells have the ability to regenerate the cartilage that is worn away by the condition. Learn more
Stem Cells Can Treat Cardiac Damage
Researchers have identified a protein marker that will help them find stem cells that can differentiate into cardiac cells. Scientists believe that cardiac stem cells transplants will be able to regenerate heart tissue after damage cause by heart disease or a heart attack. A successful treatment for heart disease could save the lives of millions. Learn more
Stem Cell Treatment for Stroke
Stem cells are being used to treat the brain injuries of people who have had a stroke. The work in this area is quite advanced and a therapeutic treatment is expected to be released within the next 5-years. Learn more
Stem Cells May Be Used to Treat Macular Degeneration
Stem cells are being used to generate nerve cells and treat macular degeneration. The condition is one of the leading causes of blindness is older people. Researchers at the University of Toronto have also developed a biomaterial gel that may help stem cells treat blindness. Learn more
Stem Cells Treatment for Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
For years, scientists believed that neurones in the brain could not be regenerated. Researchers from Duke University may have found a way to create neurones with stem cells. It paves the way for new treatments for brain injuries and illnesses including dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Learn more
Stem Cells Can Reduce Cystic Fibrosis Symptoms
Scientists have discovered that MSCs have the ability to reduce life-threatening organ inflammation caused by cystic fibrosis. A treatment using stem cells is expected to greatly increase the life expectancy of people who suffer from the disease.
The stem cells from the cord blood already have immense therapeutic value and are a medical resource that should be preserved. Learn more
Ballen, K., Gluckman, E., & Broxmeyer, H. (2013). Umbilical cord blood transplantation: the first 25 years and beyond. Blood, 122(4), 491-498. doi:10.1182/blood-2013-02-453175
DT, H. (2015). Umbilical cord tissue mesenchymal stem cells: characterisation and clinical applications. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 12 April 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23895058
Cancer.org,. (2015). Sources of stem cells for transplant. Retrieved 11 October 2015, from http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/treatmenttypes/bonemarrowandperipheralbloodstemcelltransplant/stem-cell-transplant-stem-cell-sources