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17 Feb 2015
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iPSCs from Umbilical Cord Stem Cells:The Next Generation Stem Cell Therapy?

By now, clinical trials and research studies have established the competence of stem cells in treating various medical conditions. Although stem cells are available from various sources, umbilical cord stem cells and embryonic stem cells are found to be more effective due to their ability to divide and become any type of cell. In cord blood transplants, one’s own stem cells are the best, followed by stem cells from siblings and family members, followed by stem cells from unrelated donors with the same HLA typing; this is based on the body’s reaction to donor stem cells as the patient’s immune system can reject the transplant.

Graft versus Host Reaction

During cord blood transplants, the body can distinguish self from non-self through various factors and reject the transplant. To avoid this graft versus host rejection, the donor stem cells are tested for major HLA typing; however, there are minor HLA antigens present in the body which can identify the donor cells as non-self. In such cases, the patients are administered with drugs that suppress the rejection which may have long term side effects. Thus, the patient’s own uninfected stem cells are the best way to have a successful transplant.

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs)

Meanwhile, scientists from Japan created another type of stem cells - induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) which can overcome the above problem. According to this, any cell from the body can be genetically engineered to form iPSCs which can form all lineages of cells in the body, more like embryonic stem cells than umbilical cord stem cells. The potential to treat various conditions and preparation cost of iPSCs are much better than cord blood stem cells. However, they involve challenges in terms of regulatory approvals for manufacture and clinical applications. Thus, cord blood banks can serve as business and scientific model for iPSCs to be banked and used in clinical applications.

Benefits of iPSCs formed from Cord Blood Stem Cells

As cord blood cells are immunologically pristine, properly preserved and already HLA typed (in public banks), they can be used as starting material for induced pluripotent stem cells. While storing the cord blood stem cells, iPSCs can also be generated for companion storage. This way, the iPSCs serve as a best match for transplants and could be used as self-renewable source for creating multiple cell lines required at different times in an individual’s life. A small portion of cord blood can be used to create iPSCs while the bulk can be stored as cord blood stem cells. Due to larger dividing capacity of iPSCs, there is no depletion in the amount of stem cells used for therapies. With iPSCs, the donors can provide iPSCs for transplants without losing the cells required for their future use. All these can be achieved by the participation of cord blood banks in the manufacture, storage and application of induced pluripotent stem cells.

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