Diseases Treatable by Cord Blood
Cord blood stem cell research is a science that has been gaining a lot of attention in recent years. Since the 1980s, the use of stem cells as a treatment for life threatening diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, various kinds of cancer, blood disorders and other congenital diseases, has become increasingly common and effective.
Stem Cell Therapy
Cord blood stem cells are blank cells present in the placenta and umbilical cord of a baby at birth. When these cells divide, they can become any one of 220 different types of cells, such as bone marrow, muscles or brain cells. These new, healthy cells, can be used to replace cells that have been damaged by disease.
Stem cells are found in places other than cord blood – until recently, bone marrow was the main source for stem cells used to treat disease. But using bone marrow is problematic since a perfect donor match must be found and even then, there is a risk of rejection. Viral infections are also a risk for both the donor and the recipient.
Another source of stem cells has been embryos that, for various reason, were not carried to term. This is an extremely controversial method of gathering stem cells for moral, religious and various personal reasons.
Why Cord Blood Stem Cells?
The advantages of cord blood stem cells over embryonic and bone marrow stem cells are:
- There is no controversy surrounding the saving of umbilical cord blood
- Collecting cord blood is done after birth, so there is no risk to mother or baby
- Cord blood stem cells are frozen, which prevents aging - the result is a higher capacity for replication
- The concentration of cord blood stem cells is higher than that of bone marrow stem cells
- There is a much lower incidence of rejection
- There is a lower risk of viral infection
Types and Limitations of Cord Blood Stem Cells
While a person’s own cord blood stem cells can be used to treat some diseases, it is not possible to treat congenital diseases this way, since the stem cells will also be affected. Donor cord blood stem cells from a sibling or unrelated match must be used.
There are two types of cord blood stem cell transplants:
- Allogeneic Transplantation: Cord blood stem cells from an unrelated donor or sibling are used.
- Autologous Transplantation: The patient’s own cord blood stem cells are used.
The reasons for choosing either type of transplantation therapy is dependent on various factors, which will differ between patients.
Diseases that are currently treated using cord blood stem cells are:
|Blood Disorders||Allogeneic Transplantation||Autologous Transplantation|
|Beta Thalassemia Major||Yes||No|
|Paroxysmal Nocturmal Hemoglobinuria||Yes||Yes|
|Pure Red Cell Aplasia||Yes||No|
|Severe Aplastic Anemia||Yes||Yes|
|Sickle Cell Anemia||Yes||No|
|Cancers||Allogeneic Transplantation||Autologous Transplantation|
|Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia||Yes||Yes|
|Acute Myelogenous Leukemia||Yes||Yes|
|Chronic Lymphiocytic Lukemia||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 in Transformation||Yes||Yes|
|Refractory Anemia with Ringed Sideroblasts||Yes||Yes|
|Immunodeficiencies||Allogeneic Transplantation||Autologous Transplantation|
|Absence of T & B Cells||Yes||No|
|Absence of T Cells||Yes||No|
|Bare Lymphocyte Syndrome||Yes||No|
|Chronic Granulomatous Disease||Yes||No|
|Common Variable Immunodefiency||Yes||No|
|Leukocyte Adhesion Deficiency||Yes||No|
|Neutrophil Actin Deficiency||Yes||No|
|Severe Combined Immunideficiency with Adenosine Deaminase Deficiency||Yes||No|
|X-Linked Lymphoproliferative Disorder||Yes||No|
|Inherited Disorders||Allogeneic Transplantation||Autologous Transplantation|
|Amegakaryocytosis / Congenital Thromocytopenia||Yes||No|
Researchers are studying the effectiveness of stem cells as treatments for the following illnesses:
|Disease||Allogeneic Transplantation||Autologous Transplantation|
|Familial Erythrophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis||Yes||No|
|Langerhan’s Cell Histiocytosis||Yes||No|
|Renal Cell Carcinoma||Yes||Yes|
|Sly Syndrome, Beta-Glucuronidase Deficiency||Yes||No|
|Tay Sachs Disease||Yes||No|
While stem cells and their applications for the treatment of disease are still being studying, scientists are hopeful that in the future stem cells will provide treatments and cures for many common disorders, improving the overall quality of human life.