After a woman gives birth the baby’s cord blood is left mostly in the placenta and less in the placenta. Collective that blood comes with no risks for the mother or the baby and is fairly easy to collect. What makes cord blood extremely potent for medical research and various uses is the high concentration of haematopoietic stem cells. Those cells are quite rare in a healthy adult and are normally found in the red bone marrow. They can transform into every other type of cell in our body – blood cells, skin cells, organ cells, etc. One of their major roles in our lives is the continuous blood production. This is why one of the main cord blood uses is for treating blood disorders.
Apart from the widely accepted medical theories about stem cells, new ones are emerging. Those new suggestions hint for a possible connection between stem cells and brain cells, or more widely explained – neurons. Only the future tests can confirm this but if proven true, it will open a whole new door for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders.
Stem Cells And The Medical Breakthroughs
Today, the stem cells found in cord blood are present in the treatment procedures for over 80 diseases (most of which we will list further down). Those include a vast range of genetic diseases, various types of cancer, and blood disorders.
For them to have an effect they need to be “transplanted” into the patient. That happens via blood/plasma transfusion. Once in your bloodstream those specialized cells start repairing damaged cells and replacing damaged tissue cells. In other words, if the transplant is successful patients will develop a new healthier immune system.
Can You use Cord Blood Stem Cells?
In a stem cell treatment the only people that can use those extracted stem cells are the baby from which they were collected and a sibling, although it depends on the condition that is being treated.
There are numerous research materials proving that using cord blood from a family member doubles the chances of a successful treatment. This is why cord blood banking is more and more often advised in the western medicine. Once again, it is harmless and takes little time and resources. Once it’s done, though, you will have a lifetime access to healthy stem cells that are ready to work towards any of the diseases that can be treated that way.
Let’s take a brief look at the two main types of stem cell transplants:
- Autologous Transplant – your own stem cells are being transplanted back to you after being stored
- Allogeneic Transplant – stem cells from another person are being transplanted to you. If the person who is donating the cells is a family member then he is called a “related donor”, otherwise he is known as an “unrelated donor”.
Regenerative medicine uses both types of transplants since they are both good if everything prior to the transplantation is done properly. Using one of the two transplants also depends on the type of disease that will be treated but as we mentioned autologous transplants are generally more preferred since they have a way higher success rate.
One of the procedures which is crucial to cord blood banking and to transplantation in general is the cord blood gas analysis. It is used to see if the oxygen/CO2 ratio is optimal.
Finding A Matching Donor
To find you a matching donor, clinics use the HLA method (human leukocyte antigens method). HLA are proteins that occupy the surface of your body cells. Every person has his own specific HLA proteins (markers) which recognize which cells belong to the body and which doesn’t.
If you share a lot of the same HLA structure as somebody else, this other person is referred to as your “match”. The two tissues will be immunologically compatible with each other and your cells won’t reject the stem cell transplant. This principle is valid for any other sort of transplantation as well.
The beauty of Autologous Transplant is that a child will always be a perfect hundred percent match for its own blood, no matter how much time passes.
Matching is important because if the stem cells of the donor do not match the immune system of the recipient they will attack his/her immune system and basically destroy it. This phenomenon is called GVHD (graft vs host disease). It is also one of the most serious complications in this medical field. Using stem cells from a relative reduces the risk and side effects of potential GVHD.
Blood stem cell and bone marrow stem cells, unlike cord blood stem cells, require for the matching to be 100% otherwise it will most likely fail. Cord blood stem cells are far more primitive and therefore adapt easier to the recipient’s immune system .
List Of Diseases For Which Cord Blood Is Used
Currently, the treatments which use fetal blood are split into those groups:
- Blood Disorders
- Metabolic Disorders
- Immune Disorders
Some of the main applications are against multiple types of anemia. Other disorders include Acute Myelofibrosis, Beta Thalassemia Major, Congenital Cytopenia, Essential Thrombocythemia, Polycythemia Vera, and others.
The main types of cancer treated by these stem cells are Leukemia and Lymphomas. Other types of cancer are Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia, Wilms Tumor, Rhabdomyosarcoma, and others.
Some metabolic syndromes such as Hurler Syndrome and Krabbe Disease are now being treated by cord blood stem cells. They often come with seizures, huge weight loss and body pain. Other diseases which are currently treated by stem cells are the Hunter Syndrome, Gaucher Disease, Sly Syndrome, and others.
The main types of immune disorders currently treated with stem cell transplants are Evans Syndrome and Myelokathexis. Until now they were mostly fatal because they bade the patient’s body attack itself. Therapies with cord blood also helps for patients with DiGeorge Syndrome, Evans Syndrome, Bare Lymphocyte Syndrome, and many more.