In a recent blog post, we discussed allogeneic transplants and how they can be used to help treat a number of diseases. But did you know that autologous treatments, using a child’s own cord blood, can also help treat some of those same diseases, and are also on the forefront of a new and exciting area of research?
There are multiple applications for autologous treatments:
In an autologous transplant a child’s own cord blood stem cells are transplanted back into that child to help treat some cancers, such as neuroblastoma and brain cancer. Autologous transplants require a pre-transplant conditioning regimen like alleogeneic transplants. They can also be used to treat acquired blood disorders, as opposed to blood disorders that are genetic. For example, complications from an organ transplant may result in acquired aplastic anemia. The child’s own cord blood could then be used to treat the acquired condition.
In an autologous re-infusion a child’s own cord blood stem cells are re-infused into that child to help repair and re-grow cells that may be damaged. This emerging field of medicine is directed at treatments for conditions which have no cure today, such as Cerebral Palsy and Type 1 Diabetes. Re-infusions do not require a conditioning regimen like transplants do. Read More
According to the National Stroke Association, strokes rank as the third leading cause of death in the United States and serve as a leading cause of disability in adults.1 There are two ways that a stroke can occur: a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel ruptures. Once a pathway to the brain is blocked or damaged, brain cells start to die—causing brain damage. And until recently, many scientists believed that damage to the brain was irreversible. But studies on the effects of cord blood stem cells on rats are showing otherwise further supporting the potential role for the use of a child’s own cord blood in treating Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, a common cause of cerebral palsy, caused by a stroke at birth.
In several studies performed since 2001, scientists induced strokes in mice and administered human cord blood stem cells within 24–48 hours. Scientists reported seeing:
- The development of new nerve tissues 3
- Improvement on behavioral tests 4
- Some functional recovery 5
“I keep thinking, what if I knew about the Duke University clinical study and we hadn’t saved Katie’s cord blood— we would not even have had this chance. She has a chance,” Katie’s mom Amy says. Her husband Paul chimes in, “If this helps Katie—it’s huge.”
Amy and Paul are talking about their daughter Katie—a sweet, loving, social and affectionate four year old with a hearty laugh, infectious smile and lots of curiosity. Katie was born with a condition called hypotonia — low muscle tone that affects both her gross and fine motor skills. As a result, Katie can’t walk independently, she never had the coordination to crawl (although she’s quite the scooter!) and she was not physically able to sit until she was 16 months old—almost a year later than typical child development. Katie’s speech is also affected—she is currently saying a few words but working hard with therapists to learn to pronounce different letter sounds.
Rewind a handful of years when Amy and Paul were expecting. Amy got an email from her cousin. “Have you considered banking cord blood?” her cousin asked, reminding Amy that their family had a lot of leukemia in it. “Maybe one day it will help someone.”
As it turns out that “one day” has materialized. After learning about a study at Duke University where children with cerebral palsy are being given their own cord blood stem cells to explore if it is improving their condition, Amy got in touch with the study administrator. Six weeks later she found out that Katie had been accepted into the study. “It was one of the best days of my life,” recalls Amy.
In the past 12 months, cord blood once again made many medical advances. Today, the list of diseases that can be treated with cord blood includes over 80 diseases. If you are a parent who has stored cord blood stem cells for your child(ren) or are considering storing cord blood in the future, there is even more exciting news. This past year gave rise to a significant amount of research into cord blood stem cells as a regenerative therapy, positioning it as a possible viable treatment for a variety of autoimmune, neurological, and metabolic disorders, diseases and injuries.
As a result, the number of cord blood units released by ViaCord for medical application grew significantly. By year end, more than 175 units total had been released. Of the 43 units released in 2009, 74% of them were used to treat patients participating in clinical research.
A recent news report from an ABC news affiliate highlighted some of the recent medical advancements being made using cord blood as a regenerative therapy.
With two young, healthy children—a boy and a girl—Kelly and Corey thought their family was complete. Then they learned they were expecting. While Kelly had considered cord blood banking for her older two children, for this pregnancy, she decided to definitely bank the baby’s cord blood.
When Corey asked her more about cord blood banking, Kelly admitted, “I don’t know a lot about it, but I know enough that it could potentially save the life of our baby or of her siblings.”
And, they didn’t think too much more about it, even after their baby girl, Cadence, was born with a large knot in her umbilical cord. Kelly explains, “I remember thinking how lucky we were that the knot didn’t kill her. Never for a second did I think it had caused any kind of brain damage.”
If you want to learn more about how researchers are using stem cells to advance human health, here is a great opportunity. Recently, Dan Marshak, Senior Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer of PerkinElmer, was interviewed for an installment in the podcast series: The Better Chronicles . Dr. Marshak is an expert on stem cells, and in this brief podcast, he talks about how stem cells are helping researchers uncover new ways to discover and identify pharmaceutical agents and determine their safety and efficacy in the treatment of disease. In particular, Dr. Marshak talks about research being conducted at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute , which may ultimately provide treatment options for spinal muscular atrophy, a debilitating disease which can leave infants and children without any motor control of their limbs.