Uses of Cord Blood
Umbilical cord banking or cord blood banking, a procedure in which blood from the umbilical cord and placenta is preserved for future use, is garnering increasing attention due to its tremendous therapeutic powers and possibilities.
These powers are due to its content of stem cells, primarily hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), which can produce and, thereby, replenish red blood cells (RBCs or erythrocytes), white blood cells (WBCs or leukocytes), and platelets.
As cord blood can be infused into both the child from whom it was collected (an autologous transplant) as well as other individuals (an allogenic transplant), whether related or otherwise, the decision to preserve your child’s cord blood, whether in a public or private bank, should not be taken without an understanding of its uses and, thus, its possible benefits to your child, your family, and even society as a whole.
As hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) regenerate blood cells and immune cells, cord blood is and can be used for the treatment of more than 80 ailments around the world including various blood disorders, cancers, and immune disorders which may or may not be inherited.
Furthermore, numerous other uses are currently being investigated in experimental trials and other research. Additional details are provided below.
As aforementioned, cord blood is used to treat blood disorders due to its ability to replenish blood cells. Among these are various forms of anemia and genetic red blood cell (RBCs or erythrocytes) and platelet abnormalities.
Anemias are conditions in which patients have a diminished supply of red blood cells (RBCs or erythrocytes) in circulation. Among these, those that have been treated with cord blood are Fanconi’s Anemia, Severe Aplastic Anemia, Pure Red Cell Aplasia, Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria (PNH), and Congenital Dyserythropoietic Anemia.
Inherited or genetic red blood cells abnormalities are conditions in which patients’ erythrocytes (RBCs) are altered in appearance including shape, size, or color. Among these, those that have been treated with cord blood are Beta Thalassemia, Diamond-Blackfan Anemia (DBA), and Sickle Cell Anemia (or Sickle Cell Disease).
Inherited or genetic platelet abnormalities impair the blood’s ability to clot. Among these, diseases that have been treated with cord blood include Congenital Thrombocytopenia and Glanzmann Thrombasthenia (GT).
Furthermore, as WBCs or leukocytes are cells of the human immune system, cord blood can be used as a treatment for numerous immune disorders including various Severe Combined Immunodeficiencies (SCIDs), neutropenias, phagocyte disorders, lymphoproliferative disorders, myoproliferative disorders, and other immune system disorders.
Severe Combined Immunodeficiencies (SCIDs) are inherited conditions in which individuals lack both T-cell and B-cell function. Among these, SCIDs that can be treated by cord blood are X-linked SCID, SCID in which only T-cells are absent, SCID in which both B- and T-cells are absent, Omenn Syndrome, and Adenosine-deaminase deficiency.
Neutropenias are conditions in which individuals have decreased neutrophils (a type of granular phagocytic immune cells important in bacterial immune response) in circulation. Neutropenias that can be treated with cord blood are Myelokathexis and Kostmann Syndrome.
Phagocyte disorders are conditions in which individuals have deficient or impaired phagocytic cells (neutrophils and macrophages), which engulf (“eat”) and eliminate various infectious agents. Among these, disorders that can be treated with cord blood include Chronic Granulomatous Disease (CGD), Chediak-Higashi Syndrome, Neutrophil Actin Deficiency, and Reticular Dysgenesis.
Lymphoproliferative disorders are conditions in which lymphocytes (primarily B-cells and T-cells) do not proliferate properly. Among these, those can be treated with cord blood are X-linked Lymphoproliferative Disease and Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome (WAS).
Myoproliferative disorders or neoplasms are conditions in which blood cells (RBCs, WBCs, and/or platelets) grow excessively in the bone marrow. Among these, those that can be treated with cord blood include Polycythemia Vera, Essential Thrombocytopenia, Acute Myelofibrosis, and Agnogenic Myeloid Metaplasia (Myelofibrosis).
Other immune system disorders which do not fully belong in the above categories can also be treated with cord blood. These include DiGeorge or Velocardiofacial Syndrome (DGS, VCFS, or 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome), Bare Lymphocyte Syndrome (BLS), Common Variable Immunodeficiency (CVID, or Common Variable Hypogammaglobulinemia), Leukocyte Adhesion Deficiency, and Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis.
Cancer – Cord blood has often been used in the treatment of various cancers, particularly leukemias, lymphomas, and some bone marrow cancers. Other cancers which do not fall into these categories, including Neuroblastoma, Retinoblastoma, Renal Cell Carcinoma, and Ewing Sarcoma can also be treated with cord blood.
Leukemia, a group of cancers that involve abnormal/excessive white blood cell (BWC or leukocyte) growth or proliferation, is the ailment for which cord blood is most commonly used. Both acute and chronic leukemias can be treated with cord blood. Among the acute leukemias, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML), Acute Biphenotypic Leukemia, and Acute Undifferentiated Leukemia can be treated with cord blood.
Among the chronic leukemias, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML), Juvenile Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (JCML), and Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia (JMML) can all be treated with cord blood.
Lymphomas are cancers in which lymphocytes (B- and T-cells) grow excessively. Astonishingly, the two main types of lymphomas: Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, can both be treated with cord blood.
Bone Marrow Cancers which can be treated with cord blood include Plasma Cell Leukemia, Multiple Myeloma, and Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia.
Cord blood stem cells can also be used to treat a variety of inherited or genetic metabolic disorders, including numerous Lysosomal Storage Diseases, Leukodystrophy Disorders, and others that do not fall into these categories.
Lysosomal Storage Diseases involve defects in the ability of lysosomes (which store important enzymes to eliminate waste) to store and/or degrade biomolecules. Among these, diseases that can be treated by a cord blood transplant include Tay – Sachs disease, Niemann-Pick Disease, Gaucher Disease, Sandhoff Disease, and Wolman Disease as well as another class of diseases that are collectively termed Mucopolysaccharidoses (MPS).
Among others, diseases that fall into the umbrella of MPS Storage Diseases include I-Cell Disease (or Mucolipidosis II), Sanfilippo Syndrome (MPS-III), Morquio Syndrome (MPS-IV), and Maroteaux-Lamy Syndrome (MPS-VI).
Leukodystrophy Disorders are disorders that detrimentally affect various parts of the myelin sheath and, thereby, impair central nervous system (CNS) function. Among these, those that can be treated with cord blood transplants include Metachromatic Leukodystrophy, Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease, Krabbe Disease (or Globoid Cell Leukodystrophy), and Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), which includes Adrenomyeloneuropathy (AMN).
Other metabolic disorders that may be treated with cord blood are Osteopetrosis and Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome.