The impact of cord blood therapy in 2020

To mark National Cord Blood Awareness Month and the start of a new decade, Future Health Biobank takes a look at how cord blood stem cells are transforming our health with the help of cord blood banking. 2020 is already proving to be a landmark year for many reasons, including within the field of regenerative medicine. While hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) within cord blood can already treat 85 diseases and conditions, new therapies are being developed and trialed at an increasing pace thanks to advancements in stem cell research.

Did you know, there are currently around 1,500 clinical trials using the HSCs[1] and MSCs[2] found in cord blood? As this number grows, more and more families are choosing cord blood banking for their children at birth. This valuable source of stem cells can provide a potential ‘lifeline’ in future treatments.

Cord blood and neurological disorders

Cerebral palsy
Recently Future Health Biobank released a client’s cord blood sample to help treat cerebral palsy. The pioneering clinical trial was carried out at Duke University[3] on a three-year-old girl with CP, using her brother’s banked cord blood stem cells. So far, this trial has shown that an infusion of cord blood stem cells can improve motor function in patients with cerebral palsy.
Similarly, umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have also been shown as ‘safe and effective’ for treating motor and comprehensive function in celebral palsy patients. This new therapeutic evidence from February 2020[4] will now act as a valuable point of reference as clinical trials continue.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Around 700,000 people in the UK are on the autism spectrum, that’s over 1 in 100[5]. While there is no cure, cord blood stem cells are in clinical trial phase to manage the symptoms. The results have been very promising in a number of young children, including five-year-old Maxim from Ukraine.
Maxim received an experimental therapy for autism using his own cord blood stem cells, which his parents had stored with a private cord blood bank at his birth. After the initial transfusion and a second from his twin sister’s cord blood sample, Maxim’s parents noticed amazing improvements in his communication skills. You can read the full story here.

Cord blood and coronavirus (Covid-19)
While the Covid-19 pandemic poses an immediate threat to health, scientists are once again turning to cord blood stems. Promising clinical trials are underway in Asia, Europe and the United States, investigating whether umbilical cord HSCs and MSCs would treat acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which is often a fatal complication of COVID-19.
While there is no hard evidence around cord blood for treating Covid-19 yet, a new clinical trial has been launched to investigate a potential treatment with umbilical cord-derived MSCs (mesenchymal stem cells). The trial, which was given immediate authorization by the FDA, will take place on 24 Covid-19 patients[6]. Read full coverage of the clinical trial here.

Cord blood and blood disorders
Cord blood HSCs offer standard therapies for a range of inherited and blood-related disorders. Two of the most significant are types of Leukaemia and Anaemia.

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia
While this form of Leukaemia is rare, it can be cured with an infusion of cord blood HSCs. In June 2019, a baby boy born with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia was saved following a successful stem cell therapy using donated cord blood. Used in combination with chemotherapy, Harri’s therapy was 100% successful. You can read the full story here.

Aplastic anaemia
Four-year-old Henrique suffered from life-threatening aplastic anaemia. Thanks to cord blood banking, his own cord blood stem cells stored at birth were used to treat him at a hospital in Portugal. The stem cells replaced Henrique’s damaged blood cells, then replicated to regain a healthy blood cell count and immune system function. Aplastic anaemia is one of the 85 illnesses currently treated as standard using HSCs. You can read the full story here.