Blood has always been associated with life. Its importance is also revealed by the appearance at only 2 weeks from the moment of conception, of the fetal hematopoiesis in the cells of the vitelline sac. Hematopoiesis is the process by which mature, functional blood cells (blood cells, leukocytes, platelets) are born.
All blood cells, including those belonging to the immune system, originate from a single category of cells with a primary structure and unique characteristics, called hematoformative (hematopoietic) stem cells.
If after the birth hematopoiesis occurs only at the level of the bone marrow, during the intrauterine period it occurs at the level of the fetal liver. Between the 10th and 20th week of pregnancy the liver is the main source of blood cells, so that later with the development of the bone marrow, a process of migration of the hematoform-forming stem cells from the liver to the marrow appears.
This process runs until the time of birth, explaining why the blood collected from the umbilical cord contains the baby's hematoform-forming stem cells.
Shortly after birth and later in life, hematoform-forming cells and progenitor cells (defined as intermediate stages of differentiation and maturation of blood cells) will be present only in the bone marrow.
In the peripheral blood there will be only the 3 types of adult blood cells: red blood cells or blood cells, responsible for the transport of oxygen to tissues, leukocytes or white blood cells, belonging to the immune system with a role in the defense of the body and platelets or blood platelets, with a role in blood coagulation and stopping bleeding.
The value of umbilical blood, as the source of hematoform and progenitor cells that could be used for transplantation, was revealed only at the beginning of the 1980s, through research conducted by Dr. Hal. E. Broxmeyer in collaboration with Edward A. Boyse and subsequently, starting in 1988, was clinically confirmed through successful transplants.
Until then, umbilical blood was considered only a "biological waste", being destroyed after birth with the placenta and umbilical cord. And at present, if harvesting is not done at birth, it is destroyed.
But why would parents choose to collect and store umbilical blood grafts? What are the benefits of family banking?
Umbilical blood banking means preserving stem cells from the umbilical blood sample collected at birth in the form of a graft stored in a frozen (cryogenic) form for a long time (decades).
The 7 most important advantages associated with family umbilical blood banking are:
- Obtaining a hematoform stem cell transplant in the easiest and risk-free way, possible only at the unique moment of birth
- The immediate availability of the umbilical blood graft for therapeutic use, in case of emergency even in 24 hours. This is possible under the conditions in which the preparation of the graft is done immediately after birth and subsequently, the graft is stored under cryogenic conditions for an indefinite period. The time factor is even more important in cases of rapidly evolving disease or those marked by severe complications.
- The potential for using the graft stored for both the child whose birth was harvested and for other immunologically compatible family members. For brothers with the same parents there is a 25% chance, for a "perfect" compatibility, of 100% (perfect match)
- The availability of a "young" stem cell transplant as at the time of harvest, without being affected by environmental factors (eg radiation, infections, medullotoxic drugs), the passage of time, diseases or contamination of the autologous (own) cell transplant tumors (eg in lymphomas; multiple myeloma)
- The advantages offered by the cellular and immunological "immaturity", the defining particularity of the umbilical blood stem cells as compared to the stem cell sources available after birth (bone marrow or peripheral blood). This translates into a higher capacity for cell multiplication, the ability to give birth to other types of cells other than blood and an increased immunological tolerance to the recipient organism.
Immunological tolerance means:
* a lower number of criteria for immunological compatibility (6 for umbilical blood, versus 8 or 10 to be met in the case of bone marrow or peripheral blood transplant) and looser conditions (partial compatibility) to be met by the donor and recipient , so that an umbilical cord blood transplant can be transplanted to another person, related or not, with the child whose birth was harvested.
As a result, the chances of being able to meet the conditions of donor-recipient immunological compatibility and thus, of being able to use an umbilical blood graft are higher
* a lower incidence and severity of immunological complications such as graft-versus-host disease and a better quality of post-transplant life, with younger and less immunologically expressed cells in the graft being less "aggressive" than the recipient organism.
- Low risk of transmission of latent viral infections with relevance for posttransplant evolution (eg Cytomegalovirus infection)
- The existence of a great potential for extending the therapeutic uses of umbilical blood grafts in the new field of regenerative medicine, considered the therapeutic avant-garde of the 21st century. The results of the completed or ongoing clinical trials, in an increasing number, represent an important argument in favor of re-evaluating the interest in the family banking of umbilical blood.
About what umbilical blood banking means and what constitutes regenerative medicine, for the future of medicine you will find in the following articles.
Dr. Speranta Arciudean
Tags Benefits Stem Cells Placental Blood Stem cells from placental blood