MSCs Show Great Potential

MSCs Show Great PotentialImagine having a medical resource at your fingertips that could potentially help fight cancer, halt Parkinson’s disease, and neutralize juvenile diabetes.

Recent advances with a particular group of stem cells, called mesenchymal stem cells or MSCs, suggest they could be this resource within our lifetimes, potentially adding to other stem cell treatments already in use. This news is particularly exciting for expectant parents, because MSCs are abundant in umbilical cord tissue—the tissue that makes up the umbilical cord itself—and can be extracted and stored long-term.

Cord blood banking stores stem cells found in the umbilical cord blood, which is rich in hemapatopoietic stem cells (HSCs). These cells, responsible for producing blood and immune cells are immensely valuable—they’re used today in the treatment of dozens of diseases and are also being explored as a potential treatment for many others, including type 1 diabetes and cerebral palsy. HSCs are different from MSCs, however, so cord tissue stem cell banking goes a step further by capturing MSCs from the umbilical cord tissue, and cryogenically freezing them in case they are ever needed.

MSCs from umbilical cord tissue aren’t being used in any medical treatments yet, but they’ve shown great potential. What sets them apart is their extraordinary ability to regenerate into other types of cells. Researchers are working to harness this ability and use it to grow cells, tissues, and even organs that can repair or replace those damaged by injury or disease.

In fact, preclinical lab studies1 using MSCs gathered from cord tissue have shown the potential to shrink tumors from lung cancer, slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease, reduce the joint destruction caused by arthritis, and contribute to other therapeutic breakthroughs.

Researchers have also learned that MSCs could possibly help overcome one of stem cell therapy’s challenges: increasing the number of engrafted cells.2 After cord blood stem cellsare transplanted into a person— often to restore the patient’s immune system following treatment for a disease or certain cancers like leukemia— engraftment occurs when those transplanted stem cells start producing new, healthy cells. The more cells that are produced, the better the patient’s chances of recovery are. A preclinical study found when cord blood stem cells (HSCs) and cord tissue stem cells (MSCs) were combined and transplanted, once those cells engrafted they produced up to six times more engrafted cells versus the number of engrafted cells produced when cord blood stem cells (HSCs) alone were transplanted

The research and science behind therapeutic uses for MSCs is early, just as it once was for cord blood related treatments. Twenty years ago, stem cells from cord blood were used to treat only one disease. Now, those cells have been used to treat nearly 80 diseases, and that number has the potential to continue growing. With MSCs poised to follow a similar trajectory, ViaCord is happy to give parents the option of storing cord tissue stem cells in addition to those from cord blood.


  2. Taghizadeh RR, Pollok Ke, Betancur M, et al. Wharton’s jelly derived mesenchymal stem cells: regenerative medicine beyond umbilical cord blood. Presented at: The First Meeting of the Placenta Stem Cell Society (IPLASS). From Fetomaternal Tolerance to Immuno modulary Properties of Placenta-Derived Cells in Cell Therapy [poster abstract]; October 3–6, 2010; Brescra, Italy.

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