Cord blood for 33 years has been used successfully in medicine

In the 1970’s, it was shown that the umbilical cord blood contains the same stem cells as the bone marrow and could be used in medicine instead of it. Although the first attempts of umbilical cord blood infusions to replace blood loss and to treat premature babies were conducted in 1920-1930’s.

The first official application of umbilical cord blood instead of bone marrow for the treatment of severe genetic anemia was performed by Professor Elian Gluckman in 1988 in France. The success of this operation led to the development of umbilical cord blood banks (there are more than 500 in the world) and the widespread use of this biomaterial in medicine.

At the World Cord Blood Congress, which was held in the United States in September 2021, Professor Gluckman analyzed 33 years of experience in the use of umbilical cord blood in medicine.

Among the indications for the application of unrelated umbilical cord blood, according to EUROCORD, Elian Gluckman named the following malignant and benign diseases:

Benign diseases:

  • Primary immunodeficiencies
  • Congenital diseases of metabolism
  • Bone marrow failure syndrome
  • Histiocytosis
  • Hemoglobinopathy
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Other diseases

Malignant diseases:

  • Acute myeloid leukemia
  • Acute lymphoid leukemia
  • Myelodysplastic syndrome
  • Myeloproliferative diseases
  • Plasmacytomas
  • Other acute leukemias

Among the new indications for the use of umbilical cord blood, Professor Gluckman noted:

  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Regenerative therapy

Elian Gluckman noted that the protocols for the clinical use of umbilical cord blood have been significantly improved in recent years, and possible complications are being managed through innovative approaches.

Professor Gluckman cited longer chromosome telomeres and a lower likelihood of immunological conflicts during transplantation, including transplant-versus-host syndrome, and the immediate availability of frozen transplants as the undoubted advantages of umbilical cord blood over other sources of hematopoietic stem cells. The latter saves from the need for a long and sometimes unsuccessful search for a compatible donor.

Among the promising vectors for the further use of umbilical cord blood cells in medicine, Elian Gluckman pointed to gene and immunotherapy, CRISPR technology (genome editing).

The Institute of Cell Therapy was representing Ukraine at Cord Blood Connect 2021, having presented a report “18 years of biobanking and clinical use of umbilical cord blood in Ukraine.”