Clinical advances in cord blood stem cells and what it means for your child

 In Stem Cell News

Stem cell therapy is one of the most exciting breakthroughs in modern medicine, with the capabilities of this revolutionary process in the fight against disease continuing to unfold. Storing and collecting stem cells from your newborn child’s umbilical cord blood could be the smartest investment you ever make, as current use and ongoing clinical trials continue to reveal its far-reaching therapeutic potential.

Across the world, research is underway, looking at new ways of harnessing the healing powers of cord blood stem cells to help the body cope and even cure itself from a range of health conditions.

Across the world, research is underway, looking at new ways of harnessing the healing powers of cord blood stem cells to help the body cope and even cure itself from a range of health conditions.

The results are very encouraging.

Let’s look at where stem cells are being used to tackle some of the world’s most serious diseases – and what this could mean for your family. 

Heart disease

Heart disease, or cardiovascular disease (CVD), is one of the most common causes of death globally. An estimated 38 million people suffer heart failure each year, 30% of deaths in the UAE alone are attributed to CVD. Research has shown that healthy cord blood stem cells can be used to repair heart tissue as well as help reinforce and strengthen a weakened heart. When injected intravenously, stem cells migrate to damaged areas of the heart stimulating dormant cells to become active, or transform into new heart muscle cells to repair and strengthen the heart.

Earlier this year, the American Heart Association published the results of a study that showed an improvement in the heart’s ability to pump blood in heart failure patients who received an intravenous infusion of umbilical cord stem cells. Ongoing studies are looking at the possibility of using cord blood stem cells to help mend congenital heart defects, such as a hole, leaky valve or other defects that develop as the baby grows in the womb. Scientists at The University of Bristol are testing the possibility of mending congenital defects by using living tissue (cellular grafts) made from umbilical cord blood stem cells. 

Type 1 diabetes

The incidence of autoimmune disorder type 1 diabetes is increasing worldwide but particularly steeply in the Middle East. With this form of diabetes, often diagnosed in childhood, the body’s immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, thus depleting the body’s levels of the hormone insulin, which is required to convert food into energy.

Cord blood stem cell therapy is currently being researched as a possible solution – the cells contain greater numbers of regulatory T cells, a type of white blood cell that helps to keep the immune system in balance. Cord blood stem cells can help to increase the number of T cells in the body, consequently stabilising the body’s immune response. Other studies are looking at the possibility of preventing type 1 diabetes by using cord blood stem cells to reset the immune system before the autoimmune damage can begin.

Cord blood stem cell therapy is currently being researched as a possible solution – the cells contain greater numbers of regulatory T cells, a type of white blood cell that helps to keep the immune system in balance.

Crohn’s disease

A chronic inflammatory bowel disease that can attack the entire digestive system, Crohn’s can be triggered by an autoimmune response (where the immune system starts attacking the body’s own healthy cells and tissues) and an immune deficiency. Pre-clinical trials have shown promising results in the use of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to inhibit inflammation, stimulate tissue repair and reset the immune system.

Autism

According to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US, one in every 68 children is diagnosed with autism – a spectrum of disorders that result in a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates and relates to others and how they experience the world around them. Recent research has found there may be a link between Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the immune system and inflammation.

Children with autism have immune dysregulation and increased inflammation and the level of this constant inflammation, originating in the gut, may lead to an alteration in the structure of the brain. The anti-inflammatory effects of stem cell therapy make it a promising treatment for ASD. Decreasing inflammation in the patient may alleviate symptoms of autism. In preliminary studies, children with ASD treated with umbilical cord blood stem cells showed significant differences in visual, emotional and intellectual responses and nonverbal communication.

Multiple sclerosis

Clinical trials are looking at various ways in which stem cell therapy can help slow down the effects and repair damage caused by multiple sclerosis (MS), a disorder of the nervous system. Areas being investigated include rebooting the immune system so that it no longer attacks the brain or spinal cord. This involves using high doses of chemotherapy to wipe out harmful cells of the immune system, which is then rebuilt using healthy stem cells. Stem cell therapy is also being looked at as a means of promoting repair through replacing damaged cells with healthy ones.

Spinal injury

When the spinal cord is damaged, the affected cells become inflamed and release toxins, which often harm surrounding cells and neurons (cells within the nervous system that transmit information to other cells). Researchers are looking at using stem cells to reduce this inflammation at the site of the injury and soak up the toxins and free radicals to minimise further damage to the neurons and supporting cells. Studies are also looking to see if the stem cells can replace the damaged neurons and the supporting cells in order to greatly improve a patient’s chances of recovery.

Brain injury

In recent years, stem cells have been embraced as a therapy for traumatic brain injury (TBI). Some studies suggest that  mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) found in the umbilical cord blood, release substances that can help to halt further damage. Healing is promoted by stem cells travelling to the site of the injury, where they assist in reducing inflammation and protecting the surrounding tissue. Initial clinical studies in patients with TBI have shown improvements in neurologic function at six months after cell therapy. 

Healing is promoted by stem cells travelling to the site of the injury, where they assist in reducing inflammation and protecting the surrounding tissue.

Looking ahead – Encouraging signs for the future 

Stem cell therapy is well accepted worldwide and is currently being used to treat more than 80 diseases.

The future looks bright for the treatment of disease using umbilical cord blood stem cell therapy. Many research institutions are currently assessing stem cell expansion techniques and the positive results seen so far in these studies suggest that stem cell therapy will become available to treat a wide range of diseases during your child’s lifetime.

Ongoing research is continuing to reveal the huge potential for stem cell therapy. There is still a long way to go but there are a number of very promising clinical trials that show how this process may be utilised in the future and how it could benefit you and your child.

By investing in your family’s health and storing your baby’s umbilical stem cells now, you can give your child the opportunity to benefit from this breakthrough treatment at any stage in their life. What greater gift could you hope to give?

 

About the author: Shamshad Ahmed, CEO and Founder of Smart Cells International.
Shamshad Ahmed is CEO and Founder of Smart Cells International Ltd. Opening in 2000, Smart Cells became the UK’s first private cord blood company – its goal to give parents more access to potentially life-saving treatment for their families. It is one of the UK’s largest private banks, operating across the globe and storing over 50,000 cord blood samples from people in over 70 countries. Shamshad started his career in finance and foreign exchange at Citibank before moving over to the world of clinical trials. He holds a BA from Nottingham Trent University, and he has been a member of the Young President’s Organization since 2008 – having served on the board for a number of those years.

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