Cord blood banking has seen an increase in demand, nearly doubling in the last few years. This has to do with the many benefits that come from cord blood stem cell storage and how they can be used to treat several types of cancers, illnesses, diseases, and conditions.
A Fantastic Discovery in Medical Science
Scientists have a long way to go in terms of testing and clinical trials in order to clearly determine the full potential of stem cell use, but as it stands, transplants with cord blood stem cells have quickly become the go-to treatment in many hospitals all over the world.
Blood that remains in the placenta and umbilical cord once it has been cut after birth can supply physicians with a rich source of stem cells. For the restoration of diseased bone marrow, bone marrow from donors has been used in the past, but research has shown that a cord blood stem cell transplant can be a more effective solution. Cord blood is considered an excellent alternative, and one that lowers the patient’s risk of graft versus host disease.
Cord Blood Disease Treatment
Cord blood stem cells are currently used to treat a wide range of diseases including Hodgkin’s disease, and sickle cell anemia, all of which were treated with bone marrow transplants in the past. Now, these diseases can be successfully treated with a cord blood transplant. This type of treatment involves a nonsurgical procedure that’s similar to receiving a blood transfusion.
In the past with bone marrow transplants, the search for the right match proved very difficult. Using cord blood stem cells offers a number of advantages including the ability to expand the ethnic diversity of the donor pool, and rapid availability. There’s also a reduced likelihood of viral contamination, no donor risk, and a reduced risk of GVHD.
The reduced risk of graft versus host disease is major. With this condition, the recipient’s immune system often mistakes the donated bone marrow as a foreign contaminant, which causes complications after the transplant. The use of stem cells poses a lesser risk.
However, one issue doctors struggle with is the relationship between the weight of the patient and the number of stem cells needed for successful treatment. On average, the amount of cord blood collected is just eighty to one hundred millimeters, which is why most cord blood stem cell transplants are received by children. When using bone marrow, the doctor will have a much larger stem cell supply. Research is currently underway to determine how to increase the number of cord blood stem cells for use in adult patients.
With ongoing studies and clinical trials, the future of cord blood stem cell transplants holds great promise.
Facts Regarding the Benefits of Using Cord Blood Stem Cells
- When obtained from the umbilical cord and placenta, cord blood donation does not pose a medical risk to the infant or mother.
- With bone marrow, a donation of a quart is needed.
- Only a few ounces of stem cell cord blood are required for a transplant.
- With bone marrow, it can take several months to find a donor match.
- With cord blood, a donor match usually only takes a few days. In an emergency, it can take less than twenty-four hours.
- Fresh bone marrow must be used, with a viability of just a few hours. Cord blood has no expiration date.
- Since stem cells do not expire, they can be stored and used to treat the infant well into adulthood.
- Because of the genetic match, one child’s cord blood can be used to treat siblings and parents.
Diseases Treated with Stem Cell Transplants
The following are diseases in which the transplant of cord blood stem cells is now considered a standard treatment. For some types of diseases, this type of treatment is the only option. With other diseases, stem cells are only used once front-line therapies have failed, or when dealing with a very aggressive disease.
The list below includes only some of the major diseases and conditions that can be successfully treated via a stem cell transplant. Currently, there are more than eighty conditions and diseases that are treated with this type of stem cell therapy.
- Autologous Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
- Acute Undifferentiated Leukemia
- Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
- Myelodysplastic Syndromes
- Refractory Anemia
- Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Plasma Cell Leukemia
- Omenn Syndrome
- Acute Myelofibrosis
- Multiple Myeloma
- Hunter Syndrome
Allogeneic and Autologous Cord Blood Stem Cells
As you can see, these stem cells can be used to treat a number of conditions, and there is also hope that new uses will continue to be discovered as time goes on. It’s important to mention that cord blood stem cells are often broken up into two categories: allogeneic and autologous. Allogeneic cord blood stem cells come from a family member or from public blood banks. Autologous stem cells are a person’s own cord blood stem cells that were saved at birth.
There are some important differences in these two types of cord blood stem cells. Donor cells are commonly used to treat most types of common genetic diseases. The allogeneic cord blood cells come from a public cord blood bank or they can come from a sibling. In the event of a genetic disease, it’s not recommended that the own patient’s cells be used because the cells will also be affected by the genetic disease physicians are trying to treat.
Banking Cord Blood
Banking cord blood can save the life of your child or an immediate family member. In the past, storing cord blood for the future was expensive, with high initial fees and annual costs. But as this type of treatment continues to become more mainstream, blood banking is now more affordable than ever before. You can learn more about cord blood stem cell storage and how it works by clicking here.
Research continues as scientists uncover more diseases that can be treated with a cord blood stem cell transplant. While currently, the list of diseases that are treated with these stem cells is impressive, it’s important to note that this type of treatment will not be effective in every case.