August 15, 2014
When it comes to regenerative medicine, stem cells have been hailed for their potential to transform and modernize the way we treat diseases and injuries – now and in the future. The way stem cells do this is through their unique ability to transform. Stem cells can be thought of as a kind of blank slate in the body, an uninhibited cell with the power to become whatever type of cell the body needs it to be.
“Regenerative medicine” is a blanket term used to describe the process in which human cells, tissue or organs are replaced or rehabilitated to return them to normal function following injury or illness. This can be done with lab-grown cells or tissue or by reintroducing a person’s own cells back into their body. Cord blood stem cells are of particular use in this type of regenerative healing and treatment.
Cord blood is a valuable source of hematopoietic (blood making) stem and progenitor (specific) cells, which have proven effective in the treatment of more than 80 diseases, conditions, illnesses and injuries. The cells are self-sustaining and have the ability to replicate and differentiate into whatever type of cell is needed for repair and growth.
Because of their regenerative qualities, these cord blood-derived stem cells are ideal for the treatment of many debilitating diseases including brain and spinal cord injuries, burns, heart disease, several types of arthritis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, various forms of cancer, and Type-1 diabetes, etc.
Cord blood stem cells are preferred in the treatment of many of these diseases for several reasons and the first, is the flexibility of HLA matching with cord blood stem cells. Unlike with bone marrow stem cells, which require a donor and recipient to be a perfect 6 out of 6 HLA match, cord blood stem cell requirements are not as stringent and do not need to be exact. Also, since cord blood typically hasn’t been exposed to diseases while in utero and due to the babies’ immunodeficient state at birth, a person receiving umbilical cord blood cells have less of a chance of developing Graft vs. Host disease following a stem cell transplant.
As parents are learning more about and recognizing cord blood stem cell transplants as a proven safe and (most importantly) effective treatment option for many diseases, many have taken steps to protect their children’s medical future by banking their cord blood.