Baby with blood tube

What stem cells are

Stem Cells, a treasure to enshrine

Stem Cells from cord blood - Haematopoietic Stem Cells - have an enormous potential. To store them means to protect not only the future of your child but also of the whole family. In some cases, in fact, they offer a chance of cure, if not the only possibility, to patients suffering from serious diseases, especially concerning blood disorders, and much more. But not everyone is aware of this opportunity. Therefore, here is a useful outline for all moms and dads who, starting from the period of pregnancy, choose to take care of the future of their child.

Because of their regenerative properties, stem cells are undoubtedly the new frontier of medicine, but let us try to better understand what they are. Basically, stem cells are undifferentiated cells that have not yet specialized, and able to transform (specialize) into different types of body cells, each of them with specific functions. Today, thanks to science and research, these cells can be used to ‘repair’ damaged organs and tissues.

Stem cells, however, are not all identical and they are distinguished into embryonic and adult stem cells. While embryonic stem cells, which are to be found only in the embryo at the earliest stages of development, are able to differentiate into all cell types of the body, adult ones, present in some of our organs and tissues, are able to differentiate into several types of cells (pluripotent or multipotent stem cells) or in a single cell type (unipotent), depending on their characteristics.

The ethical aspect makes the difference. Even if they have a greater proliferative capacity, the extraction of embryonic stem cells requires the destruction of the embryo, a problem that does not arise for the therapeutic use of adult stem cells: stem cells derived from the umbilical cord are adult and pluripotent stem cells.

Umbilical cord stem cells: from waste to resource

Vital to the baby while in its mother’s womb, the umbilical cord is generally thrown away after delivery becoming waste matter. Yet the umbilical cord is a real resource: the cord blood, in fact, contains haematopoietic stem cells that, to date, represent an effective response to the treatment of various hematological diseases and thalassemia.

There are more good news about umbilical cord stem cells. The tissue that covers the umbilical cord, called Wharton’s jelly, is also rich in mesenchymal stem cells that represent the future of regenerative medicine. Unlike the haematopoietic stem cells, in fact, that specify themselves ‘just’ in blood cells (red cells, white cells and platelets), mesenchymal stem cells can also turn into other cell types (neurons, bone tissue, muscle tissue, cardiac cells, etc.).

These are young cells that have a greater capacity for self-renewal and differentiation. Consider that the co-transplantation of haematopoietic stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells is not only effective and safe but also reduces instances of rejection during transplants.

Umbilical cord stem cells, as well as being readily available, have 100 percent chance of compatibility with the child. Today, with these cells, it is possible to treat more than 80 haematological, metabolic and immune diseases but, thanks to continuous advances in medical research, in the near future they will represent the response to the most serious and widespread pathologies.

Why store

Lab operator

Conservation: the importance of looking to the future

More and more families are looking to the future and choose to store the umbilical cord stem cells of their child. The benefits of having their own stem cells in case of need are huge: it avoids the search for a donor and any risk of rejection or infection.

The umbilical cord stem cells, in fact, are young, readily available and can be used both for autologous transplants, i.e. when the recipient is the same person from whom they were obtained (with a probability of 100% of compatibility), and for intra-familiar allogeneic transplants, that is when the recipient of umbilical cord stem cells is a member of the donor’s family.

To better understand the importance of this choice, consider that the umbilical cord blood contains enough cells to make possible the reconstruction of the bone marrow. In addition, it can also be frozen and transplanted at a later stage without losing its capacities, and it can also be used for those diseases for which today the bone marrow is already used. All at zero risk for mother and baby, as the collection of cord blood is a very simple, safe and non-invasive procedure.

Cord blood stem cells (haematopoietic stem cells) are already being used successfully for the treatment of numerous diseases, especially blood disorders but not only, as an alternative to bone marrow transplantation. More and more families are looking to the future and choose to keep their child's umbilical cord stem cells. The benefits of having your own stem cells available in case of need are enormous: you avoid the search for a donor and any risk of rejection or infection.

The stem cell transplant

The scientific discovery of the presence of stem cells in umbilical cord blood belongs to 1980, and the first transplant was performed in 1988 in France on a child suffering from Fanconi anaemia and completely cured after treatment.

Since then, more than 30,000 patients worldwide have benefited from this treatment, transforming the umbilical cord in the second source of stem cells, after bone marrow. To date, more than 610,000 samples have been collected around the world, stored in more than 100 public banks. In addition to these, all the blood units stored in private banks and intended for autologous / family use. Only in SSCB – Swiss Stem Cells Biotech more than 20,000 stem cell samples have been already preserved.

Research is making huge progress

Thanks to stem cells, modern medicine already offers new life expectancies but research does not stop and goes on making great strides day after day. About 20 years ago, the haematopoietic stem cell transplantation was reserved only to patients with acute leukaemia, while now it is possible to treat more than 80 haematological, metabolic and immune diseases. But the future is still full of surprises.

The pathologies for which there are ongoing studies investigating the use of haematopoietic and mesenchymal stem cells are in fact copious. They range from neurological diseases such as autism and spinal injuries, to those auto immune, as Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. But there are also cardiovascular, hereditary (such as HIV) and orthopaedic diseases.

To reckon with all Clinical trials approved and currently underway in the United States and many other countries around the world, is the ClinicalTrials.gov registry, where you can learn all about the contribution that the stem cells will give to medicine by improving the life of all of us.

The Future of Regenerative Medicine inside Cord Tissue

Mesenchymal stem cells of cord tissue are in charge of repairing organs or tissues damaged by illnesses. In fact, these cells because of their great differentiation ability, are particularly promising in the field of regenerative medicine. In particular, ongoing studies are testing these cells in osteocartilaginous lesions and skull-facial traumas, congenital diseases or tumours. And not only: these cells are also particularly interesting as a possible tool for the treatment of autoimmune diseases, such as type-1 diabetes mellitus, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Regenerative medicine is at the beginning of its path, but expectations for the future are enormous.