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:

  1. Autologous transplantation, where the patient’s own cord blood stem cells are used in treatment.
  2. 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.

Disease Treated

Here is a list of diseases treated using cord blood stem cells.

Cancers Autologous
Transplantation
Allogeneic
Transplantation
Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia Yes Yes
Acute Myelogenous Leukemia Yes Yes
Chronic Leukemias Yes Yes
Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Yes Yes
Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Yes Yes
Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia Yes Yes
Hodgkin’s Disease Yes Yes
Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia Yes Yes
Multiple Myeloma Yes Yes
Neuroblastoma Yes Yes
Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma Yes Yes
Plasma Cell Leukemia Yes Yes
Refractory Anemia Yes Yes
Refractory Anemia with Excess Blasts Yes Yes
Refractory Anemia with Excess Blasts
in Transformation
Yes Yes
Refractory Anemia with Ringed Sideroblasts Yes Yes
Blood Disorders    
Acute Myelofibrosis Yes Yes
Agnogenic Myeloid Metaplasia Yes Yes
Beta Thalassemia Major No Yes
Blackfan-Diamond Anemia No Yes
Fanconi Anemia No Yes
Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria Yes Yes
Pure Red Cell Aplasia No Yes
Severe Aplastic Anemia Yes Yes
Sickle Cell Anemia No Yes
Immunodeficiencies    
Absence of T & B Cells No Yes
Absence of T Cells No Yes
Ataxia-Telangiectasia No Yes
Bare Lymphocyte Syndrome No Yes
Chediak-Higashi Syndrome No Yes
Chronic Granulomatous Disease No Yes
Common Variable Immunodeficiency No Yes
DiGeorge Syndrome No Yes
Kostmann Syndrome No Yes
Leukocyte Adhesion Deficiency No Yes
Neutrophil Actin Deficiency No Yes
Omenn Syndrome No Yes
Reticular Dysgenesis No Yes
Severe Combined Immunodeficiency
with Adenosine Deaminase Deficiency
No Yes
Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome No Yes
X-Linked Lymphoproliferative Disorder No Yes
Inherited Disorders    
Amegakaryocytosis / Congenital Thrombocytopenia No Yes
Glanzmann Thrombasthenia 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.

Disease Autologous
Transplantation
Allogenic
Transplantation
Adrenoleukodystrophy No Yes
Breast Cancer Yes Yes
Cartilage-Hair Hypoplasia No Yes
Ewing Sarcoma Yes Yes
Familial Erythrophagocytic
Lymphohistiocytosis
No Yes
Hemophagocytosis No Yes
Gaucher's Disease No Yes
Hunter's Syndrome No Yes
Hurler's Syndrome No Yes
Krabbe Disease No Yes
Langerhans' Cell Histiocytosis No Yes
Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome No Yes
Maroteaux-Lamy Syndrome No Yes
Metachromatic Leukodystrophy No Yes
Morquio Syndrome No Yes
Mucolipidosis II No Yes
Mucopolysaccharidoses No Yes
Multiple Sclerosis Yes Yes
Nomann-Pick Disease No Yes
Osteopetrosis No Yes
Renal Cell Carcinoma Yes Yes
Sanfilippo Syndrome No Yes
Scheie Syndrome No Yes
Sly Syndrome,
Beta-Glucuronidase Deficiency
No Yes
Tay Sachs Disease No Yes
Wolman 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.

 

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