Research on applications of stem cells they do not stop happening and conquer new milestones. Some of the most profitable ones are demonstrating hematopoietic stem cells, which are extracted from the umbilical cord blood (SCU). They are blood cells that are located in the bone marrow and have the ability to self-renew, proliferate and differentiate to give rise to mature blood cells, such as erythrocytes (red blood cells), granulocytes and lymphocytes (white blood cells), and platelets.
In fact it is not something so novel, since for more than 15 years they have been used for transplantation in the treatment of various neoplastic and non-tumoral diseases. In fact, the results obtained thanks to them are similar and, even, superior to those achieved through bone marrow transplantation (BM) in the same pathologies.
This type of transplant can be done in two ways, either from one relative to another (usually brothers), or thanks to those stored in public banks of SCU, distributed throughout the world, belonging to unrelated donors, and that have allowed that this type of transplants can be carried out more easily.
The data analyzed to date indicate that the first option has higher success rates. When the donor is a brother whose cells are compatible, survival one year after transplantation is 73%, compared to about 30% in those SCU transplants from a donor unrelated to the patient.
In spite of this, the number of transplants performed with a family donor since the beginning of this technique, in 1988, is very low. The problem is that it is difficult to have a family donation at the time it is necessary, in addition to the probability of histological identity between siblings is 25%. For this reason there are many parents who resort to having a new baby with the hope of a possible transplant thanks to the umbilical cord blood collected during delivery. It is what is known as "Medicine babies".
Many parents, preventively, decide to collect the SCU of their newborns for store it in case they might need it in the future if a brother of the baby is affected by a pathology that needs these cells for a transplant. It is what is called allogeneic intrafamily donation.
Cord cells: medicine of the future
The umbilical cord blood transplant It has proven to be clinically effective in a myriad of pathologies. The estimated risk of suffering from a neoplastic disease with indication for a transplant before 21 years of age, in addition to the overall incidence of hemoglobinopathies (sickle cell anemia or transfusion-dependent thalassemia), spinal cord aplasia, immunodeficiencies or metabolic diseases of deposit, all they are disorders in which SCU transplantation is a potentially curative treatment (particularly if the donor is a compatible sibling), amounts to approximately 0.3% (Johnson FL, 1997).
For this reason, talk about the specific applications of the SCU in the family, contemplating its cryopreservation (conservation of the cells extracted from the SCU in a frozen state, introducing them in containers with liquid nitrogen, at a temperature of -196º), carried out To this end, as a transplant product in reserve for any member of the family that may need it in the future, it is not an entelechy but a reality contrasted by medical literature.
On the other hand, in addition to those already mentioned, in the umbilical cord blood there are other non-hematopoietic cells. This type of cells can be manipulated in vitro for what is known as regenerative medicine and cell therapy. That is, it can be expanded to be used in the regeneration of damaged tissues and organs, be they bones, cartilage, the skin itself, neuronal tissue, liver, pancreas, endothelial cells, muscle, cardiac cells, respiratory ... Respect to others types of cells have the advantage that they are unlimited, they can be obtained from the patient (although also from another donor), do not require too much manipulation and their use is not subject to ethical controversies.
At present they are already carrying out clinical studies, in which they are investigating its possible application in cases of diabetes, cerebral palsy, peripheral vascular diseases, spinal cord injuries ... In addition, there is hope that this type of cells can be used in the next few years to treat problems related to vision, the nervous system, bones and cartilage, heart attacks, COPD or Parkinson's.