Stem cells from a person's own umbilical cord effectively treat blood and immune disorders, juvenile diabetes

Two separate data abstracts displayed at the annual scientific meeting of the AABB - an international association of medical professionals and institutions focused on transfusion, transplantation and cellular therapy - highlight the increasing therapeutic use of autologous (one's own) cord blood stem cells for transplant and regenerative medicine, including treatments for blood and immune disorders, juvenile diabetes and neurological repair.

They also demonstrate the important role of family (or private) cord blood banks in advancing these treatments.

Autologous Treatment Protocol for Aplastic Anemia

The first study analyzed four cases where an individual's own cord blood stem cells were released to treat aplastic anemia. The cord blood was processed and stored at Cord Blood Registry and the transplants were conducted at three different institutions: The University of Minnesota, City of Hope (Los Angeles), and Children's Hospital in Seattle. The cases suggest that autologous cord blood transplantation for aplastic anemia is a safe and effective treatment protocol and demonstrate that this approach is amenable to use at different treatment centers across the United States.

“Aplastic anemia is a life-threatening disease with no known cause that can be acquired at any time in life and is difficult to treat,” said lead study investigator Dr. David T. Harris, Ph.D., professor of immunology at the University of Arizona and scientific director of Cord Blood Registry. “This study offers evidence that transplant physicians have a safe and effective weapon for combating this disease for patients who have access to their own cord blood stem cells.”

The analysis also showed that:

  • One of the autologous samples used was stored for 9.5 years, which is the longest period of time a family-banked cord blood sample has been stored prior to use.
  • Engraftment, the point at which the stem cells start to generate new blood cells, occurred as early as two days after transplantation in one patient and averaged 22 days across the four cases. According to the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), the average time to engraftment for cord blood is between 21 and 35 days.

Autologous Cord Blood Use in Regenerative Medicine

The second report documented 13 cases of autologous cord blood stem cell use in both traditional and regenerative medicine applications. Sample release data suggest a rising demand for autologous cord blood over the last 10 years and an increase in samples requested for regenerative medicine applications.

In addition to the four cases of aplastic anemia (reviewed in detail in the first study), the report documented nine samples released for regenerative therapies:

  • Two client samples were released for type 1 diabetes as part of an ongoing clinical trial at the University of Florida. Preliminary data from the first seven patients in the trial show the stem cell infusion appears to have reduced their disease severity, possibly resetting the immune system and slowing the destruction of their insulin-producing cells.
  • Six samples were released to treat neurological conditions, including cerebral palsy (four samples), anoxic brain injury (one sample), and traumatic brain injury (one sample). Although these six samples were not released as part of any specific clinical trial, anecdotal evidence by physicians involved with these cases suggests that the treatments were safe, with some anecdotal reports of improvement in quality of life. Since the study period ended, two more samples were released for treatment of cerebral palsy. The stem cell infusions were conducted at Duke University and Children ' s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
  • One additional sample was released for an experimental autologous stem cell infusion to treat a diagnosis of a rare immune disorder.

“Cord blood stem cells are increasingly being used by transplant physicians in regenerative medicine because of their demonstrated ability to produce almost all of the cell types of the body,” said Harris. “These cases provide physicians and researchers with additional insight into how cord blood stem cells may be used to treat more conditions and ultimately benefit more patients.”

Current estimates indicate that approximately one in three Americans could benefit from regenerative medicine therapies. More than 200 National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded clinical trials with cord blood are currently being conducted in the U.S. alone.

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