News from the World Cord Blood Congress Cord Blood Connect

It has already become a good tradition to hold the Cord Blood Connect World Congress on Cord Blood in the United States every autumn by the authoritative international organization Cord Blood Association, whose member is the Cryobank of the Institute of Cell Therapy. 2020 was no exception, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, global experts from the biobanking industry and the clinical use of cord blood, medical practitioners and industry representatives met on an online platform. Nonetheless, the Congress was fruitful and we bring you the latest industry breakthroughs that were showcased at Cord Blood Connect on September 10th and 17th, 2020.

Especially interesting were the papers from the Duke University (USA). In particular, the work of Hyunjung Min et al on the therapeutic potential of umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells in the treatment of neurological diseases. Scientists have shown the anti-inflammatory effect of mesenchymal stem cells, therefore, the practical significance of this work is not only in creating new approaches to the treatment of multiple sclerosis, but also in studying the anti-inflammatory effect of mesenchymal stem cells in general, which is also important for the treatment of COVID-19.

Arjun Saha and co-authors also from Duke University (USA) created a human umbilical cord-blood derived, macrophage-like cell therapy product. In studies on mice, it was shown that the preparation of umbilical cord blood helps to restore the myelin sheaths of nerves, to be affected, in particular, in multiple sclerosis. The drug is already being used to treat people with leukodystrophy in a phase 1 clinical trial.

Rachel Hollowell and coauthors from Duke University (USA) studied adverse reactions of umbilical cord blood infusions. The observation covered children with neurological diseases treated at Duke University. The patients received their own cord blood stem cells or from siblings (brothers or sisters), compatible according to the HLA system. Adverse reactions to infusion occurred in 10% of children, but these post-transfusion complications were mild and  brought under control. Thus, scientists have concluded that the use of umbilical cord blood is safe, in particular in children with neurological diseases.

A group of scientists from Monash University (Australia) Tayla Penny and co-authors in experimental studies on rats with hypoxic-ischemic brain damage, which in humans leads to cerebral palsy and autism, showed a significant therapeutic effect of repeated use of umbilical cord blood, namely, a prevention of the brain mass decrease, decrease of the inflammation in the central nervous system and behavioral disorders. According to scientists, multiple umbilical cord blood infusions are more effective than single ones.

Einat Galamidi-Cohen, in collaboration with researchers from Israel and the United States, concluded that the age of the donor affects the outcome of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Thus, the use of umbilical cord blood can prevent complications that occur when using hematopoietic stem cells of older donors.

Belen Alvarez-Palomo and co-authors from Spain considered the possibility of umbilical cord blood endothelial progenitor cells culturing with the possibility of their further clinical use. After all, it is known that umbilical cord blood, in addition to hematopoietic and mesenchymal stem cells, contains endothelial progenitor cells, promising for cell therapy and bioengineering, including vascular and bone repair, creation of artificial vascular structures or wound healing. Scientists have developed an effective protocol for isolating endothelial progenitor cells from frozen umbilical cord blood.

Frances Verter and Pedro Silva Couto from an authoritative educational organization in the field of umbilical cord blood biobanking have published a paper on the use of perinatal tissues in the treatment of COVID-19. Thus, in the first half of 2020 alone, 111 clinical trials were registered in 22 countries of the world, in which cell therapy was used to treat COVID-19. In most cases, mesenchymal stem cells are used. In 79% of cases, mesenchymal stem cells of perinatal tissues (umbilical cord, placenta) are used.

Ngaire Elwood and co-authors from Australia have published a paper on increasing the relevance of umbilical cord blood use in a COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has been shown to adversely affect the availability and transport of bone marrow transplants, whereas cryopreserved umbilical cord blood transplants are immediately ready for use and can be transported frozen. It is noted that transplant activity associated with the use of umbilical cord blood increased significantly in 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, especially in Australia.

The papers presented at the World Congress on Cord Blood Connect, once again confirm the value of perinatal tissues (umbilical cord blood, umbilical cord, placenta) as sources of stem cells of different populations, the relevance of their long-term storage and constant expansion of their therapeutic use.