We’re already one week into Cord Blood Awareness Month and over the course of the month we will be covering different topics relating to umbilical cord blood. This week we’re looking at cord blood and an exciting new area of medicine known as regenerative medicine.

What is regenerative medicine?

The term “regenerative medicine” was coined in 1999 and is used to describe an area of science that encompasses a number of innovative medical treatments that aim to repair, regrow and even replace damaged or diseases cells, tissues and organs within the human body.

Regenerative medicine is an umbrella term that covers many different fields of research and medical interventions which aim to restore function in the body. And due to their remarkable regenerative properties, stem cells have a critical part to play in regenerative medicine.

In particular, umbilical cord blood is a valuable medical resource which contains billions of stem cells with powerful regenerative properties. This is why there are now over 1,000 clinical trials currently underway which are investigating the application of cord blood to hundreds of diseases and conditions.

Advances in stem cell research and regenerative medicine has seen stem cells already being used as approved therapies for over 80 conditions. Back in 1997, the chances of needing regenerative therapy in a lifetime was 1 in 2,700. Today, it is said that 1 in 3 people will benefit from regenerative therapy in their lifetime.

Five years ago there were just over 5,000 clinical trials investigating the application of stem cells. Today, there are nearly 8,000 clinical trials and the uses of umbilical cord blood for future therapies are increasing every day.

What is cord blood’s role in regenerative medicine?

Umbilical cord blood has a crucial role in regenerative medicine research and has many current and potential applications. Cord blood contains billions of stem cells, most notably mesenchymal stem cells which have the ability to transform into various types of cells within the human body, making them a valuable resource for regenerative medicine.

Because of the ability of cord blood stem cells to transform into different types of cells, they are able to replicate to produce more specialised cells that can replace damaged and diseased ones – helping to restore normal function in the body.

Essentially, umbilical cord blood stem cells are able to migrate to areas of the body that are damaged to decrease inflammation and help heal any damaged tissue. This is crucial as many diseases and conditions that affect both children and adults are said to be related to inflammation of the immune system.

How is cord blood currently being used in regenerative medicine?

The use of umbilical cord stem cells in vital to treating more than 80 conditions, particularly for immune disorders and blood cancers. Because of their ability to transform into any type of blood cell, cord blood is used to rebuild the immune system of many cancer patients whose immune systems have been affect by aggressive cancer therapies.

Leukaemia was one of the first blood cancers to be treated with stem cell transplants. When Leukaemia needs to be treated with chemotherapy, a stem cell transplant is often used to replace the dangerous, cancerous cells with healthy blood forming cells.

Another condition that is treated by stem cell transplants is neuroblastoma. The condition is the most common reason for autologous stem cell transplantation in children. For those who have their own cord blood stored, they can receive it to boost their immune system following chemotherapy.

Umbilical cord blood cells are also routinely used to treat other disorders such as hurler syndrome, lymphoma, sickle cell anaemia and many more.

Emerging uses of cord blood in regenerative medicine

Over the last few decades, the application of cord blood has expanded beyond transplantations into exciting new developments in the area of regenerative medicine. Scientists are using umbilical cord blood stem cell in treatments for conditions that until now have been incurable.

Stem cell researchers are currently conducting more than 7,900 clinical trials to investigate the application of stem cell treatments for hundreds of different conditions such as brain injury, hearing loss, heart attack, type 1 diabetes and more. In fact, 48% of cord blood bank releases have been used for regenerative treatments, showing the real potential of this powerful resource within regenerative medicine.

Early results from these clinical trials have been promising, and final results are expected to spark more interest in treatments using umbilical cord blood for even more diseases and conditions.

Over the coming years, scientists hope to make more discoveries which will transform the potentials of stem cell therapies into a reality that will be life-changing for people around the world.

Cord blood banking

Your baby’s cord blood could be the key to unlocking both existing and future regenerative therapies throughout their lifetime. Despite this, each year 800,000 babies are born on average, and more than 65,000 litres of cord blood are thrown away.

Cells4Life are passionate about empowering expectant parents with the knowledge they need to make an informed decision about banking their baby’s umbilical cord blood stem cells. Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks where we will be looking at cord blood in more detail.

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References

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