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12 Jul 2015

Umbilical Cord Stem Cells to Create Synthetic Blood for Sickle Cell Anemia

Scientists at Antony Nolan Research Institute, London found that the proteins present in umbilical cord blood could be used to treat inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and eczema. They have accidently discovered the effects of umbilical cord blood proteins while looking for treatment of Graft versus Host Disease (GvHD). The research study is published in the European Journal of Immunology.

Antony Nolan research Institute is a stem cell registry dedicated to save lives of people suffering from cancer through stem cell transplantation. The scientists at Antony Nolan were originally researching on treatment options for skin GvHD that affects patients who undergo stem cell transplants. GvHD occurs as a side effect of stem cell transplants where the patients’ immune system recognizes the new cells as foreign and attacks their body, resulting in severe skin reactions. The new research findings helped the scientists to identify the protein responsible for pacifying the inflammation effect observed in all the three diseases: GvHD, Eczema and Rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

It is a chronic inflammatory disease that primarily affects the joints causing painful deformity and immobility, especially in the ankle, wrist, feet, knee etc. It is an auto immune disorder that occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own body cells. It can occur at any age and usually begins after 40 years of age


Eczema also known as Dermatitis is an inflammation disease of the skin, causing itchy, vesicular and crusting patches. It is commonly seen in children but adults may also suffer from eczema. The disease can be treated with oral medication, steroid creams and therapy.

At present, RA, eczema and GvHD are hard to manage and this discovery could create a potential therapy for patients.

Role of Umbilical Cord Blood in RA Therapy

Generally, the immune system uses natural killer cells to fight off the foreign objects (microbes or transplant cells) present in the body through inflammation. The umbilical cord blood has a soluble protein called NKG2D ligand which has the ability to disable the actions of natural killer cells. This is useful to prevent the mother and baby from rejecting each other during pregnancy. Researchers from Antony Nolan discovered that NKG2D can also prevent inflammation in other parts of the body.

This discovery could lead to the development of skin creams using proteins present in the umbilical cord blood to treat eczema, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory disorders. The scientists believe that this discovery could be life-changing for the patients suffering from the above mentioned diseases.

With further research, clinical trials and involvement of pharmaceutical companies, it is possible to manufacture this cream and introduce in the market within 5 years.



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