New research has found that stem cells derived from human cord blood could be an effective alternative in repairing heart attacks.
At least 20 million people survive heart attacks and strokes every year, according to World Health Organisation estimates, but many have poor life expectancy and require continual costly clinical care. The use of patient’s own stem cells may repair heart attacks, although their benefit may be limited due to scarce availability and ageing. The researchers have found heart muscle-like cells grown using stem cells from human umbilical cord blood could help repair heart muscle cells damaged by a heart attack.
The findings could have major implications on future treatment following a heart attack given that cells obtained from adults following a heart attack may be less functional due to ageing and risk factors.
Professor Ascione said: “We believe our study represents a significant advancement and overcomes the technical hurdle of deriving cardiac muscle-type cells from human cord blood. The method we have found has the attributes of simplicity and consistency. This will permit more robust manipulation of these cells towards better cell homing and cardiac repair in patients with myocardial infarction.
“Our collection program started in 2004,” explained Bruna Pasini, the head obstetrician, also in charge of the collection of umbilical cord blood for the hospital. “At that time we started to collaborate with the Milano Cord Blood Bank, which allowed us to collect over 1,000 units of blood.”
The remaining blood in the placenta after birth contains stem cells similar to those in the bone marrow. They are considered the new frontier to treat many diseases. “About 40-50% of patients with leukemia and lymphomas, who need bone marrow transplants,” explained Mariangelo Cossolini, the organ and tissue transplant coordinator for the province of Bergamo, “do not find compatible donors in their family or in the international registry of voluntary bone marrow donors. Therefore, umbilical cord blood is very precious because it can replace marrow in stem cell transplants and is able to regenerate bone marrow and the entire immune system.”
The cord tissue and cord blood are rich sources of stem cells.
LifeCell, which is into private banking, will start collecting umbilical cord tissue in the near future. It already collects and stores cord blood for private banking.
After a baby is delivered, the cord is first clamped before it is cut. Cord blood is collected and then the umbilical cord tissue is cut from the placenta to just above where it is clamped. About 20 cm of cord tissue is cut.
The study will include 40 children age 2-12 whose parents have stored cord blood at the Cord Blood Registry in Tucson, Ariz.
Umbilical cord blood is rich in stem cells, which can divide and morph into different types of cells throughout the body, said Dr. James Carroll, professor and chief of pediatric neurology in MCG School of Medicine and principal investigator on the study.
Cerebral palsy, caused by a brain injury or lack of oxygen in the brain before birth or during the first few years of life, can impair movement, learning, hearing, vision and cognitive skills. Two to 3 children in 1,000 are affected by it, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Animal studies indicate that infused stem cells help injured brain cells recover and replace brain cells that have died, Dr. Carroll said.