In case of emergency: How stem cells can help recovery from trauma
Did you know that you don’t have to be suffering from a chronic, life-threatening condition to benefit from stem cell therapy? I’ve talked in previous articles about the use of stem cells in the treatment of blood disorders and its potential to treat neurological diseases, heart disease, cancers and diabetes, but there are a number of more ‘everyday’ conditions for which stem cell therapy is promising to provide patients with a much better outcome.
It’s important to be aware of these applications when considering whether or not to take the opportunity to collect and bank your child’s own store of stem cells. While the procedure of collecting umbilical cord blood from newborn babies is non-invasive and non-threatening for baby or mother, the decision to go ahead demands careful thought and the more you understand about the benefits, the more confident you will be in your decision.
Using stem cells to repair injuries
As well as the headline-grabbing stories about stem cell treatment for cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s etc, the therapy is already being used to treat severe burns and is showing the potential to help heal some of the traumatic injuries that pass through A&E departments every day – not necessarily life-threatening but certainly a threat to quality of life.
Burns: Burns cause significant loss of fluid and often extensive tissue damage, resulting from deep wounds that impair many of the skin’s vital functions. Stem cell therapy has been shown to improve the quality of burn wound healing, reduce the formation of scars and re-establish the normal function of the skin.
Stem cell therapy has been shown to improve the quality of burn wound healing, reduce the formation of scars and re-establish the normal function of the skin.
Tens of thousands of grafts are performed every year for burn victims and people with large wounds that have difficulty healing. With these injuries there is a high risk of infection, which makes the tissue damage worse and can give rise to inflammatory and immunological responses, which can put the patient at a higher risk of sepsis and possible organ failure. There is also the risk that the graft may not ‘take’ or may not blend well with the surrounding skin.
A 2012 clinical review revealed that stem cells have tremendous potential in enhancing the healing of burn wounds and facilitating skin regeneration. The capability of stem cells to self-renew boosts the skin’s natural healing process to fully repair and restore the skin’s original structure and functionality. Also their ability to regulate an immune and inflammatory response promotes healing and helps to minimise scarring.
The stem cells can be applied topically, injected directly or intravenously. Another method being developed in the US is a ‘gun’ that sprays the cells directly onto the injury. This produces minimal scarring compared with grafting and allows patients to regrow a new layer of healthy skin in as little as four days.
Helping wounds to heal: Stem cell therapy also shows great promise in helping to improve the healing rate of wounds caused by traumatic injuries. This can be particularly beneficial in older patients whose wounds take a lot longer to heal. When infused locally around the wound or injected into the wound, the stem cells target the various different phases of the healing process, helping to stimulate the formation of blood vessels and regulate inflammation, allowing the wound to heal more quickly and effectively. A study published in 2017 concluded that stem cells possess a potential therapeutic ability to overcome the limitations of the present treatments as they offer accelerated wound repair with tissue regeneration.
Restoring sight after cornea damage: Stem cell therapy has been approved as a means of restoring sight to people with damaged corneas (the clear front surface of the eye that allows light to enter the eye), usually from scarring caused by injury or infection. The cornea is protected by a group of cells called limbal stem cells. When these cells become impaired by trauma or disease, the cornea loses its ability to self-repair. Around 10 million people worldwide are blind due to damaged corneas. Up until recently, transplant surgery to replace the cornea with a healthy one from a donor has been the only way to correct the problem. However, the transplantation of healthy limbal stem cells can repair the cornea and permanently restore vision.
Healing head traumas: Stem cell therapy has the potential to treat acquired head injuries (AHI) or traumatic brain injuries (TBI). With its ability to repair and relieve the symptoms of such traumas, it has proven in trials to be an effective treatment whether the TBI is caused by a single, violent blow or through a series of concussive knocks over a period of time, such as injuries that could be incurred whilst playing a contact sport like rugby or boxing.
Stem cell therapy has the potential to treat acquired head injuries (AHI) or traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
When introduced to the site of the injury, the stem cells migrate to damaged areas within the brain and improve blood flow, regrow blood vessels and calm inflammation, which contributes to the growth of healthy new neural cells in place of damaged tissue. One US clinical trial looking at the treatment of TBI has shown how stem cell therapy can help alleviate the body’s inflammatory response in the brain to the trauma. Other studies in patients with TBI have demonstrated that neurological function improved six months after stem cell therapy was undertaken.
Your child holds the key
The arrival of a newborn child is a strong trigger for the parental protective instincts. Imagine if you could buy a first aid kit that could treat and heal any accident or injury that should befall your child at any stage in their life. We’re not quite there yet, but as we learn more and more about stem cells and their ability to repair and regenerate so many aspects of our physiology, it becomes increasingly apparent that a banked supply of your child’s precious cord blood has the potential to be a simple solution to a myriad of complex threats.
Smart Cells is the UK’s first private cord blood storage company, helping parents from across the world take the pioneering decision to store the stem cells of their babies for greater security of health. For more information on umbilical cord blood banking or to organise a consultation, please click here to find the number of the office nearest to you, email us on UAE@smartcells.com, or click here.
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.