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14 Feb 2016 3 Comments

What are the uses of umbilical cord blood stem cells today?

Stem cells in the umbilical cord blood are capable of repair and self renewal of damaged cells and thus used in the treatment of various medical conditions. At present, umbilical cord stem cell therapy is used in many ongoing clinical trials and research studies to treat the patients and understand the disease mechanism to provide better therapies.

In the last 25 years, umbilical cord blood stem cells have been used in over 30,000 stem cell transplants to treat around 80 medical conditions. Although stem cells are not widely used in clinical practice, patients undergo safe and approved clinical trials for treatment of leukemia, neuroblastoma, cerebral palsy, SCID and many other medical conditions. Stem cells found inside the umbilical cord blood find its therapeutic application in standard therapies, clinical trial treatments and experimental trials.

In most cases, the stem cell transplant is accompanied with chemotherapy for better results. Usually, the treatment involves 2 steps:

1. Chemotherapy is used to wipe off the patients’ affected blood cells in the bone marrow.

2. This is followed by injecting umbilical cord blood stem cells which will renew the production of new healthy immune cells.

Approved Treatments Using Cord Blood Stem Cells

Below are some of the medical conditions which can be treated using umbilical cord stem cell therapy:

1. Leukemia – A type of cancer affecting the leukocytes of the blood immune system. There are various types of leukemias based on the source of origin and stage of the disorder. Stem cell transplants can help to treat acute, chronic and juvenile forms of leukemias.

2. Lymphoma – A type of blood cancer affecting the leukocytes that circulate in the blood and lymph nodes. Hodgkin and non Hodgkin lymphomas can be treated using stem cell transplants.

3. Other blood proliferated disorders – This include anaemia, sickle cell anaemia, Beta Thalassemia major, severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) condition, red cell aplasia, multiple myeloma, plasma cell leukemia etc.

4. Inherited disorders of immune and metabolic disorders – Some of the disorders include hurler syndrome, hunter syndrome, ALD, Lesch Nyhan syndrome, Osteopetrosis etc.

5. Tumors including neuroblastoma, retinoblastoma and medulloblastoma.

Clinical Trials Using Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells

At present, there are over 30 clinical trials that use umbilical cord stem cell therapy. These trials are approved based on the positive outcomes of the previous phases. Some of the clinical trials are focussed on neurological medical conditions include Autism, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, hearing loss and hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, auto immune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, Lupus, Diabetes, Crohn’s disease, Graft versus Host disease, rheumatoid arthritis etc., cardio vascular diseases like congenital heart disease, ischemic stroke, cardiac repair, myocardial infarction etc., inherited disorders such as HIV, Thalassemia, sickle cell, SCID etc., that require gene therapies and orthopaedic disorders.

Most of these clinical trials are in Phase I and II, so the results of these various stages are not available. Most patients who underwent stem cell transplants, followed by regular health checkups and medications are found to be healthy and leading a normal life. They have witnessed an improved quality of life due to the healing power of stem cells. This is the reason why stem cells are called as miracle cells and parents choose to preserve these precious stem cells of their baby through cord blood banking.

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