It is now widely accepted that cord blood stem cells offer some significant medical benefits and their use in treating a number of diseases continues to evolve. Here is a look at what cord blood is currently used for and what the future may hold in potentially finally eliminating some well known diseases.
The use of stem cells
There are three primary sources of stem cells currently in use for either scientific study or for therapeutic applications, embryonic stem cells, adult bone marrow and peripheral blood and cord blood. In medical terms. The use of embryonic stem cells is still subject to much controversy and their use in scientific experiments is still relatively new as the first studies only took place in 1998.
Adult stem cells
The use of adult stem cells is considerably more established and they have been used in relation to a wide variety of treatments for more than 40 years, having firmly established their therapeutic value. The use of bone marrow stem cells is an invasive and complicated procedure and the cells do not grow as rapidly as those found in cord blood.
The use of cord blood stem cells
Umbilical cord blood was at one time considered to be almost a waste product of the birthing process but it has subsequently been established that it is actually a rich source of easy to collect highly prized stem cells. Cord blood stem cells have now been successfully used in a variety of treatments for more than 20 years and they are currently used to treat over 70 recognized diseases.
Cord blood is used to tackle immunodeficiencies, some genetic and neurological disorders, a variety of different cancers and some blood disorders. These include ailments such as leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia and also aplastic anaemia. There have been approaching 10,000 cord blood stem cell transplants performed by physicians worldwide and due to their proven therapeutic qualities
Successful transplant rates
The use of cord blood stem cells is fast overtaking the previous method of treating diseases with a bone marrow transplant and the rate of successful transplant operations is high due to a number of key factors. HLA, which is Human Leukocyte Antigen is the description given to six genes which help to determine compatibility and cord blood cells are more tolerant than bone marrow stem cells, meaning that survival rates are nearly double that of bone marrow, even when the donor is not related. Cord blood cells are less likely to attack the body and the other key point is that cord blood cells are inclined to increase in cell number more rapidly than cells from bone marrow, which has significant medical advantages.
There are approximately 80 clinical trials currently ongoing according to the FDA and scientists consider that the potential future use of cord blood stem cells is continuing to expand on a daily basis. Many consider that its greatest potential lies in the possibility of using it to create and develop regenerative medicine, effectively using the body’s own cells in order to repair or even replaced damaged tissue or organs.
Studies are already well underway to make regenerative medicine a reality that can be used in numerous treatments such as heart disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and muscular dystrophy, plus a host of other diseases.
There is also the possibility that umbilical cord blood may at some point in the future be used as the conduit for cell-based gene therapy. Not bad for something that was almost routinely discarded after the birth of a newborn not that many years ago.
Alice Pettaway is a laboratory tech who works in the medical field. She enjoys blogging about new scientific technologies in her spare time. Learn more about Cord Blood Banking – click here!