August 29, 2014

Are umbilical cord stem cells a viable option when it comes to treating rheumatoid arthritis? Possibly, yes. New advances and studies using cord blood are giving hope to those afflicted with the painful disease.

Arthritis and other rheumatic conditions are the most common cause of disability among adults, according to a 2009 survey published by the CDC. An estimated 52 million Americans are currently living with some type of arthritis. One of the more debilitating types of the disease is rheumatoid arthritis. It is also one of the most common and serious forms. It is a painful chronic disease causing inflammation and swelling of the joints, most commonly affecting the hands, knees and feet, and can lead to loss of function and long-term damage to joints.

The cause of RA is unknown but it is thought that the immune system plays a role in the disease by, basically, attacking the joints. Management of RA today involves just treating the symptoms. Most sufferers take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for the inflammation and pain, as well as corticosteroids to help with stiffness and swelling.

Cord blood is emerging as a possible treatment for RA as well. Stem cell therapy has been shown to prompt healing in animals diagnosed with some form of arthritis. Human cord blood stem cells are sometimes used to speed healing on horses with joint afflictions, helping to rebuild the damaged joint tissue. The stem cells are administered via IV over the course of a 4-day schedule. Currently, no cord blood stem cell treatment for RA has been approved in the United States by the FDA, but the potential is there, as shown with the successes in animal trials and treatments.

Evidence suggests that stem cells have the potential to heal RA. For example, stem cells have the ability to produce Regulatory T cells, which help regulate the immune system. Studies are being conducted that look at the effects that cord blood stem cells can have on the disease. The hope is that, once administered, adult stem cells will target the inflamed joints and produce anti-inflammatory agents, helping to reduce inflammation and promote healing. The study will look at things such as the disease progression and the replacement of cells damaged from the disease.

The studies also look at the different delivery methods of the cord blood stem cells and efficacy of each type. Two methods include IV administration into the vein and direct site injection.

This potential therapy is just another example to show the promise in the future of stem cell research and why cord blood banking for your child is a wise choice.

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