Diseases Treated by Cord Blood
Worldwide, there are about 2 billion people suffering from various types of life threatening diseases such as cancer, diabetes, osteopetrosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries, heart disease, immune system disorders, blood disorders; the list goes on.
Although a wide assortment of methods are used to treat and cure these serious diseases, since the late 1980s, cord blood stem cells have increasingly been used to effectively treat a number of life threatening diseases. Cord blood stem cells are retrieved at birth from the blood present in the umbilical cord and placenta.
Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cells have a peculiar ability to divide and differentiate into 220 different types of cells found in the human body. Nowadays, they are used ad nauseam in cell-based therapies, where healthy cells, which are derived from the stem cells, replace the damaged cells.
For many years now, bone marrow has been considered to be the fundamental source of stem cells. Until recently, bone marrow transplant therapy was the most common method used to treat diseases. However, there are many problems associated with bone marrow transplant therapy including difficulty in finding a perfect donor match, risk of viral infection and other transplant side effects and graft vs. host disease GVHD (transplant rejection). This is why, more and more, doctors are turning to cord blood stem cells to help treat serious illnesses. Find out more about the basics of transplants and about bonemarrow vs. cord blood.
Why Cord Blood Stem Cells?
Cord blood stem cells offer several advantages over bone marrow stem cells and embryonic stem cells, including:
- Collection of cord blood stem cells poses no serious risks to either the baby or the mother because it is collected after birth.
- Unlike embryonic stem cells, umbilical cord blood is a non-controversial source of stem cells.
- With cord blood stem cells, the risk of viral infection is less.
- There is a significantly reduced risk of graft vs. host reaction.
- Cord blood stem cells not only occur in higher concentration than bone marrow stem cells, but they also have a higher capacity to replicate since they are harvested from the umbilical cord blood when they are very young, and, due to preservation, they do not age, hence their vitality is preserved.
While cord blood stem cell transplant therapy has many advantages, its use is somewhat limited because of the difficulty in finding a perfect match. Nevertheless, there are about 75 diseases that can be treated through the use of cord blood stem cells. These diseases can be segregated into congenital (present at birth) diseases and acquired diseases.
Cord Blood Stem Cell Types and Limitations
For the treatment of congenital diseases, the patient’s own cord blood cannot be used because the same disease also affects the stem cells located there. In such cases, cord blood stem cells from a sibling or an unrelated donor are used.
A cord blood stem cell transplant can be one of two types:
- Autologous transplantation, where the patient’s own cord blood stem cells are used in treatment.
- Allogeneic transplantation, where cord blood stem cells coming from a sibling or an unrelated donor are used.
Typically, the selection of the transplantation therapy depends upon several factors that differ from patient to patient.
Here is a list of diseases treated using cord blood stem cells.
|Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia||Yes||Yes|
|Acute Myelogenous Leukemia||Yes||Yes|
|Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia||Yes||Yes|
|Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia||Yes||Yes|
|Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia||Yes||Yes|
|Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia||Yes||Yes|
|Plasma Cell Leukemia||Yes||Yes|
|Refractory Anemia with Excess Blasts||Yes||Yes|
|Refractory Anemia with Excess Blasts
|Refractory Anemia with Ringed Sideroblasts||Yes||Yes|
|Agnogenic Myeloid Metaplasia||Yes||Yes|
|Beta Thalassemia Major||No||Yes|
|Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria||Yes||Yes|
|Pure Red Cell Aplasia||No||Yes|
|Severe Aplastic Anemia||Yes||Yes|
|Sickle Cell Anemia||No||Yes|
|Absence of T & B Cells||No||Yes|
|Absence of T Cells||No||Yes|
|Bare Lymphocyte Syndrome||No||Yes|
|Chronic Granulomatous Disease||No||Yes|
|Common Variable Immunodeficiency||No||Yes|
|Leukocyte Adhesion Deficiency||No||Yes|
|Neutrophil Actin Deficiency||No||Yes|
|Severe Combined Immunodeficiency
with Adenosine Deaminase Deficiency
|X-Linked Lymphoproliferative Disorder||No||Yes|
|Amegakaryocytosis / Congenital Thrombocytopenia||No||Yes|
In addition to this diseases and disorders, there are also a number of conditions that scientists are investigating in clinical trials to deem just how effective cord blood stem cells are. While in almost every case, stem cells have shown to positively affect the condition in some way, the use of stem cells is currently not a standard treatment method for these diseases and disorders.
|Langerhans' Cell Histiocytosis||No||Yes|
|Renal Cell Carcinoma||Yes||Yes|
|Tay Sachs Disease||No||Yes|
Scientists are still examining cord blood stem cells and perfecting how to use these stem cells in treatment. It is hoped and expected that, in the future, cord blood stem cells will be used to treat many other disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury and stroke.