Stem cells from umbilical cord blood
Umbilical cord blood is especially rich in young blood-forming (= haematopoietic) stem cells. These are able to mature into every type of blood cell and are therefore of major significance in the treatment of disorders of the blood-forming system, e.g. leukaemia. In addition, umbilical cord blood contains rare stem cells, which for example, can become cartilage, bone and liver cells. It is highly probable that in future such cells will play a major role in regenerative medicine.
Unrelated stem cells
Unrelated stem cells are currently employed for the successful treatment of serious disorders of the blood-forming system (e.g. leukaemia and anaemia). They therefore represent a genuine alternative to stem cells from bone marrow or peripheral blood.
Umbilical blood stem cells
As opposed to stem cells from bone marrow, umbilical blood stem cells offer numerous advantages:
- Umbilical cord blood is available in large quantities, but in the past it was unfortunately thrown away with the cord following the birth.
- Suitable transplants can be provided to patients with far greater speed, as all the stem cell transplants listed in today’s current global registers have already been prepared and are therefore ready for immediate use.
- As a rule, following a transplant, stem cells from umbilical cord blood are tolerated to a much higher degree by the patient than stem cells from bone marrow. As a consequence, patient rejection, the so-called graft versus host disease (GVHD) and the transfer of pathogens occur far less frequently.
- Human leukocyte antigen (HLA) mismatches are more likely to be tolerated by the recipient of an umbilical blood transplant than is the case with bone marrow transplants.