Womens Health

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 Treated
Diseases that are currently treated using cord blood stem cells are:

Agnogenic Myeloid Metaplasia
Blood DisordersAllogeneic TransplantationAutologous Transplantation
Acute MyelofibrosisYesYes
Beta Thalassemia MajorYesNo
Blackfan-Diamond AnemiaYesNo
Fonconi AnemiaYesNo
Paroxysmal Nocturmal HemoglobinuriaYesYes
Pure Red Cell AplasiaYesNo
Severe Aplastic AnemiaYesYes
Sickle Cell AnemiaYesNo

CancersAllogeneic TransplantationAutologous Transplantation
Acute Lymphocytic LeukemiaYesYes
Acute Myelogenous LeukemiaYesYes
Chronic LeukemiasYesYes
Chronic Lymphiocytic LukemiaYesYes
Chronic Myelogenous LeukemiaYesYes
Chronic Myelomonocytic LeukemiaYesYes
Hodgkin’s DiseaseYesYes
Juvenile Myelomonocytic LeukemiaYesYes
Multiple MyelomaYesYes
Non-Hodgkin’s LymphomaYesYes
Plasma Cell LeukemiaYesYes
Refractory AnemiaYesYes
Refractory Anemia with Excess BlastsYesYes
Refractory Anemia with Excess Blasts in TransformationYesYes
Refractory Anemia with Ringed SideroblastsYesYes

Immunodeficiencies Allogeneic Transplantation Autologous Transplantation
Absence of T & B CellsYesNo
Absence of T CellsYesNo
Bare Lymphocyte SyndromeYesNo
Chediak-Higashi SyndromeYesNo
Chronic Granulomatous DiseaseYesNo
Common Variable ImmunodefiencyYesNo
DiGeorge SyndromeYesNo
Kostmann SyndromeYesNo
Leukocyte Adhesion DeficiencyYesNo
Neutrophil Actin DeficiencyYesNo
Omenn SyndromeYesNo
Reticular DysgenesisYesNo
Severe Combined Immunideficiency with Adenosine Deaminase DeficiencyYesNo
Wiskott-Alrich SyndromeYesNo
X-Linked Lymphoproliferative DisorderYesNo

Inherited Disorders Allogeneic TransplantationAutologous Transplantation
Amegakaryocytosis / Congenital ThromocytopeniaYesNo
Glanzmann ThrombastheniaYesNo

Researchers are studying the effectiveness of stem cells as treatments for the following illnesses:

Disease Allogeneic Transplantation Autologous Transplantation
Breast CancerYesYes
Cartilage-Hair HypoplasiaYesNo
Ewing SarcomaYesYes
Familial Erythrophagocytic LymphohistiocytosisYesNo
Gaucher’s DiseaseYesNo
Hunter’s SyndromeYesNo
Hurler’s SyndromeYesNo
Krabbe DiseaseYesNo
Langerhan’s Cell HistiocytosisYesNo
Lesch-Nyhan SyndromeYesNo
Maroteaux-Lamy SyndromeYesNo
Metachromatic LeukodystrophyYesNo
Morquio SyndromeYesNo
Multiple SclerosisYesYes
Nomann-Pick DiseaseYesNo
Renal Cell CarcinomaYesYes
Sanfilippo SyndromeYesNo
Scheie SyndromeYesNo
Sly Syndrome, Beta-Glucuronidase DeficiencyYesNo
Tay Sachs DiseaseYesNo
Wolman DiseaseYesNo

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.

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