Umbilical cord blood stem cells: prime source for transplants and future regenerative medicine
The 5th ITERA Life-Sciences Consortium Symposium took place in Maastricht, the Netherlands, and showcased the progress of stem cell research and promising therapeutic applications. Thanks to solid scientific data, researchers confirmed that umbilical cord blood stem cells are one of the prime sources to be used in current stem cell transplants, ongoing research and future regenerative medicine.
Cord blood is one of the prime sources for stem cells, more and more used for stem cell transplants
The eminent Prof. Gluckman opened the Symposium. She was the first to execute a cord blood stem cell transplant curing a child with Fanconi’s Anemia in 1988, using the stem cells of a sibling. At the occasion of the Symposium, she showed that cord blood is becoming rapidly the preferred source for unrelated cord blood transplants: in 2000 only 1% of the transplants used stem cells from cord blood, today more than 22% use cord blood stem cells. This strong growth is due to the superior characteristics of the cord blood stem cells, but also underlines how easily the stem cells from cord blood can be isolated, in opposition to bone marrow for example.
Since the first cord blood stem cell transplant in 1988, there has been reports on over 25 000 cord blood stem cell transplants worldwide and almost 7800 of these transplant have been reported to Eurocord. The main disease to be treated was acute leukemia (47% children and 59% adults), followed by other blood related disorders (10% children and 20% adults). The ITERA academic and industry researchers alike are committed to increase the number of diseases that can be treated with stem cell transplants.
Ongoing clinical trials, tackling unmet medical needs
Regenerative medicine is one of the most promising therapeutic domains addressed at the ITERA Symposium. Different therapies are underway to address spinal injury, organ repair and regeneration including heart, liver, kidney and bladder. During the Symposium, researchers from all over the world had the opportunity to share and report on their latest results of pre-clinical work and clinical trials. These studies tackle ailments that have no treatment yet and hold a lot of promises for the patients. Results of these studies are to be expected soon.
Experimental treatments in the lab, moving towards clinical trials
Prof. Surbek, from Switzerland, reported on their efforts to treat premature infants suffering from prenatal brain injury with stem cell transplantation. There is no established therapy available and the injury often leads to a severe long-term disability. On animal models, human stem cells were successfully transplanted. Dr. Surbek comments:
We are excited about these first results as they confirm survival and functional activity of the transplanted donor cells. I see many premature babies and we are committed to improve their survival rate and quality of life. With the continuous support of Cryo-Save International and the Eagle Foundation in Switzerland, we hope to offer new treatments to our patients within the next few years.
ITERA awarded by UNESCO International Code of Ethics
The current experimental treatments are likely to offer new possibilities for treatment of unmet medical needs in the future. Meanwhile the promises regenerative medicine hold for the future raise social and ethical questions. ITERA supported by Cryo-Save, the leading family stem cell bank, is committed to develop an engaged and informed discussion in response to the ethical and social hopes, demands and concerns from the public. For its hard work, ITERA and the chairman Dr. Albert Ramon received the prestigious UNESCO International Code of Ethics rewarding the different ITERA researchers for their efforts to take into account the shared values and ethical principles.
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