Potential Uses For Hematopoietic Stem Cells
Until recently, it was assumed that these hematopoietic stem cells, obtained from cord blood, could only be used as building blocks for blood cells. These stem cells were thought to be useful only in treating blood diseases. If you look closely at the list of current treatments for which hematopoietic stem cells are used, all of them are diseases of the blood.
Recently, cord blood research has discovered evidence that suggests that, under the right circumstances, cord blood may be conditioned to “change” into the building blocks of organ tissue. If that is the truly the case. then the potential uses of cord blood stem cells will be extraordinary, including treatment for everything from breast cancer to heart disease to diabetes.
If this potential is realized, then saving cord blood can ensure your baby’s health well into adulthood.
What Are Stem Cells?
Umbilical cord blood is a rich resource of hematopoietic stem cells. These stem cells are the “building block” cells of blood, tissue and organs. They are the earliest cells found in the fetus, which then replicate efficiently and rapidly to create more blood, liver tissue, heart tissue, etc.
Hematopoietic Stem Cell Types
There are currently two identifiably different types of hematopoietic stem cells. Pluripotent stem cells are found in the fetus itself and hematopoietic stem cells are found in cord blood.
Pluripotent stem cells that are present in embryos are the most basic stem cells. Since they are so primitive (or undifferentiated) they can actually create and form new tissue and new organs. This is what makes them so medically useful. Because they are found within the fetus itself, the use of them is controversial.
The hematopoietic stem cells found in the baby’s cord blood, “hematopoietic” stem cells, are different. They are not as primitive as the pluripotent stem cells since they have already started to become blood stem cells. They can, however, rapidly and efficiently create new blood for a patient. The stem cells found in cord blood have been used to regenerate new blood in patients who have blood diseases. The uses for hematopoietic stem cells have grown dramatically over the years.
Stem Cells Resources
National Institutes of Health Stem Cell Information
Provides information and resources about stem cells and stem cell research.
National Cancer Institute
Fact sheet about bone marrow transplants and peripheral blood stem cell transplants.
Bone Marrow and Cord Blood Donation and Transplantation
Health Resources and Services Administration web site. Access to information about cord blood and bone marrow transplants through the W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research
Information about the Michael J. Fox research foundation, dedicated to finding a cure for parkinsons disease.