Get answers to questions about CBR’s Center for Regenerative Medicine, umbilical cord blood and cord tissue. Plus learn the truth behind common misconceptions about cord blood banking.
CBR’s Center for Regenerative Medicine
- Can my children participate in a clinical trial if their stem cells are not banked with CBR?
- How are patients for clinical trials chosen?
- Does CBR have academic affiliations with research institutions?
- What is the difference between a pre-clinical research study and a clinical trial?
- Are there risks involved in newborn stem cell treatments?
Cord Blood Stem Cells
- What is cord blood?
- What are stem cells?
- How is cord blood used in medical treatments?
- What is graft vs. host disease (GvHD)?
- What is HLA matching?
Cord Tissue Stem Cells
- What is cord tissue?
- How are cord tissue stem cells different from cord blood stem cells?
- How are mesenchymal stem cells being researched for use in medical treatments?
- “Cord blood is not being used yet in medical treatments.”
- “Doctors would never treat the child with his or her own cord blood stem cells because it would contain the disease.”
CBR’s Center for Regenerative MedicineCan my children participate in a clinical trial if their stem cells are not banked with CBR?
Clinical trials are evaluating cord blood stem cells for their ability to help conditions and injuries like autism, pediatric stroke, cerebral palsy, and traumatic brain injury. Currently, all FDA-regulated clinical trials require the use of a child’s banked cord blood stem cells. Several of these trials are only available to children who have their own stem cells banked with CBR.
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How are patients for clinical trials chosen?
The inclusion criteria for each trial are different. To get connected to future clinical trials that are open to CBR families, please visit CBR's Center for Regenerative Medicine.
Does CBR have academic affiliations with research institutions?
Yes. CBR’s laboratory was initially established as a pilot program partially sponsored by the American Cancer Society and the University of Arizona using technology pioneered by Dr. David T. Harris. The first to family bank a child’s own cord blood stem cells for future use, Dr. Harris is a professor of microbiology and immunology and CBR’s Director of Medicine.
CBR also has established leadership in advancing clinical research with newborn stem cells. We are the exclusive family bank partner in studies at several prestigious medical institutions, including Sutter Neuroscience Institute, Georgia Health Sciences University, Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, and The University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston (UTHealth).
What is the difference between a clinical trial and a pre-clinical laboratory study?
Clinical trials are experimental treatments using human subjects. They are FDA-regulated and conducted by physicians and medical institutions. Pre-clinical laboratory research uses animals and in vitro studies and is performed prior to clinical trials.
Are there risks involved in newborn stem cell treatments?
Like any medical procedure, newborn stem cell treatments may involve risks, which should be discussed with your doctor. Ultimate use of newborn stem cells will be determined by your treating physician.
Cord Blood Stem Cells
What is cord blood?
Cord blood is the blood that remains in your newborn's umbilical cord after birth. Cord blood is a valuable source of a type of stem cell that can be used in a variety of medical treatments.
What are stem cells?
Stem cells are the body's "master cells" because they are the building blocks of organ tissue, blood, and the immune system. Stem cells from bone marrow were first used to regenerate blood and immune cells for patients who had received chemotherapy for cancer. In the late 1980s, doctors started using cord blood stem cells to treat diseases that previously had been treated with bone marrow transplantation.
Today, cord blood stem cells are successfully being used to save lives. They also are being researched in an exciting new area of medicine called regenerative medicine, where scientists are studying the use of cord blood stem cells in experimental treatments for conditions like autism, pediatric stroke, and brain injury.
How is cord blood used in medical treatments?
Cord blood stem cells have been successfully used in transplant medicine for more than 20 years. Cord blood has been used to treat many life-threatening diseases including leukemia, other cancers, and blood disorders, metabolic disorders, and immune diseases.34 There is no guarantee that experimental therapies will be available in the future.
Cord blood also is being used in regenerative medicine research, where stem cells are being evaluated for their ability to induce healing or regenerate cells to repair tissues. Clinical trials are evaluating a child’s own cord blood stem cell infusions as experimental therapies to treat autism, pediatric stroke, cerebral palsy, brain injury, and juvenile diabetes.
Your physician will determine if cord blood stem cells should be used and if one’s own stem cells or a matched donor’s would be the best course of treatment. Like any medical procedure, newborn stem cell treatments may involve risks, which should be discussed with your doctor. Ultimate use of newborn stem cells will be determined by your treating physician.
What is graft vs. host disease (GvHD)?
GvHD is one of the most common and life-threatening side effects of using stem cells from another individual or "donor" to treat the patient. In fact, GvHD is the leading cause of death following a transplant. GvHD occurs when the transplanted stem cells from a donor recognize the recipient's body as foreign and attack it. Stem cells from cord blood are less likely to cause GvHD than bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells. Family banked cord blood can help reduce GvHD and improve treatment outcomes because:
- The stem cells in cord blood are more flexible and less reactive than adult stem cells from other sources43
- Cord blood used between family members has a lower risk of GvHD compared to cord blood from unrelated donors28,29
What is HLA matching?
HLA matching is the criteria used to determine donor and recipient compatibility. In cord blood, it generally refers to six proteins called human leukocyte antigens (HLA) that appear on the surface of white blood cells and other tissues in the body. A transplant would only be performed if there is an adequate HLA match between donor and recipient. A perfect six out of six match is best. Siblings are the most commonly used related donors.27
Cord Tissue Stem Cells
What is cord tissue?
Cord tissue is your baby’s umbilical cord, which contains a rich variety of cells including mesenchymal stem cells. These stem cells can form connective tissues such as bone, cartilage, and tendon. Studies are evaluating cord tissue stem cells as possible treatments for some injuries and diseases.
How are cord tissue stem cells different from cord blood stem cells?
Cord tissue is a rich source of mesenchymal stem cells, which create connective tissue. Cord blood is rich in hematopoietic stem cells, which create the blood and immune system. Because of the different functions of these stem cells, cord blood and cord tissue may help repair the body in different ways. Cord tissue research is still in its early stages, and effective therapies may never develop.
How are cord tissue stem cells being researched for use in medical treatments?
Stem cells from cord tissue are being evaluated in laboratory studies for their ability to heal spinal cord, brain, and cartilage injuries, in addition to other areas. This research is now beginning to move into clinical trials. It is at an early stage and medical treatments are not available today and may never be developed.
“Cord blood is not being used yet in medical treatments.”
Fact: Over the past 20 years34, cord blood stem cells have been used in 25,000 transplants30 to treat many life-threatening diseases, such as leukemia and other cancers. In transplant medicine, a patient generally will undergo chemotherapy and then receive an infusion of cord blood stem cells to create a healthy blood and immune system.30
In addition, a new field, called regenerative medicine, is evaluating cord blood stem cells’ ability to help repair and replace cells that have been damaged by disease or injury. These are conditions that have no cure today, such as autism, pediatric stroke, and brain injury. These therapies are still experimental and there is no guarantee that treatments will be available.
“Doctors would never treat the child with his or her own cord blood stem cells because it would contain the disease.”
Fact: Thousands of autologous stem cell transplants – those using one's own stem cells from cord blood, bone marrow, and peripheral blood – are performed every year.
- Autologous (using one's own stem cells) transplants are performed for diseases such as: Hodgkin's disease, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, severe aplastic anemia, myeloma, Ewing's sarcoma, neuroblastoma, brain tumors, and other solid tumors.
- Research from the Journal of Clinical Oncology31 reports that even with early-onset disease (within 12 months of birth), the child's stem cells are viable for use in transplantation. In the study, an autologous stem cell treatment for infants with acute leukemia was just as successful as a sibling transplant.
Autologous cord blood stem cells have many advantages as a stem cell source, including no risk of graft vs. host disease (a leading cause of death for transplant patients). In addition, like all saved cord blood, it is available quickly and the stem cells have a low risk of having been affected by environmental damage or viruses.
Experimental treatments with cord blood focus on regenerative medicine – where doctors study the use of stem cells to repair damaged tissues and organs in the body. Currently, for these applications, a child's own cord blood is required.
However, there are certain medical conditions that would not use autologous stem cells:
- Genetic Diseases: Cord blood stem cells may not be usable if the donating child has certain genetic diseases, such as sickle cell anemia. However, gene therapy, which uses the child’s own stem cells to deliver the corrected genetic element is being investigated. Gene therapy is still experimental and may never become clinically available.
- Certain Cancers: In earlier years of life, doctors may choose to not use a child’s own stem cells for treatment of certain cancers such as leukemia, due to the concern that an early onset may indicate a genetic component. However, if the cancer occurs later in life, the child’s cord blood stem cells may be preferable to their own adult stem cells collected during remission from the cancer. This is because of the risk of residual tumor cells in the adult stem cells, which may cause relapse.
In cases in which autologous stem cells cannot be used, a matched sibling's cord blood is the next best option, which is one of the key reasons why it is important to bank cord blood for each child in the family.28,29