Can Umbilical Cord Blood Banking benefit Stem Cell Research?

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Stem cell technology has been a subject of debate by many in society. Just like any new discovery in medicine, it has been faced by controversy based on ethics and morality. This biomedical discovery has even faced administrative opposition in some countries. George W. Bushs administration restricted the funding of biomedical research promoting stem cell technology. The President noted that the stem cell research was a crisis in the making pitting pro-life politics against medical research (Parco, Vascotto, & Visconti, 2013). However, despite the passive judgement on this technology, there have been many strides made by stem cell research. Many ailments and conditions have been easily treated and, in some cases, even cured in the recent past. Embryonic stem cells have been found to be an integral part of managing incurable diseases that have riddled mankind. The ethical perception of the stem cell research has ignored these benefits and instead has only focused on the morality of this medical advancement. Umbilical cord blood banking has become an important asset to stem cell research. There is a need to look into responsible medical advancements that are keen on bringing in developments while at the same time respect the dignity of human life.

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Development of Stem Cell Technology

Cord blood banking is one of the many developments brought about by the stem cell research. It allows for the saving blood from the umbilical cord for future use. In many cases, this banking is termed as biological insurance. In many countries, it is illegal to establish the cord blood banks. The cord blood is preferred because it has hematopoietic cells which can differentiate easily into blood cells. The stem cells found in the cord blood are also blood cell progenitors meaning that they can easily form or create platelets, white blood cells and red blood cells (Parco, Vascotto, & Visconti, 2013). The cord blood cells are also used in the treatment of genetic diseases, blood disorders and cancers. With more advanced research, the cord blood cells can help provide an array of solutions and treatments of diseases and ailments that have challenged the field of medicine.

Benefits of Umbilical Cord Stem Cells

Umbilical cord blood stem cells are being used to treat many different conditions. Adult and embryonic stem cells have been used for therapies in the clinical setting and cord blood banking has proven to be the most effective means of doing this according to different studies. This is due to the fact that the stem cells are pluripotent i.e. are able to differentiate into various types of tissues such as pancreatic, skin, neurologic, and cardiac tissues (Cogdell 154). This increases their effectiveness and efficacy in terms of the healing process. This aspect is also related to it presents low risk of contaminating other diseases (Cogdell 155). The author states that the process of transplanting umbilical cord stem cells does not promote transmission of infectious diseases to the recipients. Umbilical cord blood collection is non-invasive and those who donate are not affected since the cells are usually discarded after child birth.

Another benefit of umbilical blood banking is its ability to treat various range of conditions including hemoglobinopathies, malignancies, immunodeficiencies, bone marrow failure, and inborn errors. In an article, FED: Private Vs Public Cord Blood Banking, it is indicated a significant preference for the technology is its replacement of the bone marrow transplant which always requires genetic matching which would otherwise result to graft-versus- host diseases. According to Cogdell, only 20-25% of patients can attain the matching of blood antigens to prevent the resulting diseases (155). However, cord blood stem cells do not have the antigen matching condition. It has been used to treat individuals with immune disorders and leukemia. This clearly shows that the cord blood cells are more advantageous compared to other types of stem cells.

In the Wall Street Journal article, Hunt for Cures Seeks New Benefits from Umbilical Cord, Peter Loftus looks into cord blood and its role in the management of ailments. Loftus notes that studies have proposed that umbilical cord blood can be used to treat effectively some diseases. The treatments range from chronic diseases to non-chronic ones and, with time, the cord blood will be able to counter a wide range of diseases. Currently, research is focusing on the treatment of autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and Type 1 diabetes as well as cerebral palsy and congenital heart disease. However, experts feel there is a need for further studies to determine the effectiveness and safety of the treatments for all users. The fact that umbilical cord blood contains stem cells that can generate and proliferate into generalized specialized cells makes this endeavor a possible venture. The most common utilization of umbilical cord banking is in children with leukemia. According to McKenna and Brunstein, when stem cells obtained from umbilical are used among children patient with leukemia, their disease-free survival level is usually 30% to 60% (153). The stage of the disease usually determines the survival level, and this technology has shown similar outcomes with adults. The cases of healing have been achieved in more than or equal to 90% of the cases. With a linkage in the antigen-matched Umbilical Cord banking, it was also clear that recipients with antigenmatched units healed faster and had lower cell dose. Children receiving well-matched banking have higher chances to survive leukemia. Cord-blood stem cell transplants work to replenish the cells (hematopoietic stem cells) that become damaged in the strong chemotherapy treatment given to patients (Parco, Vascotto, & Visconti, 2013).

Recently, umbilical cord banking has also been used in the treatment of metabolic diseases, immune deficiencies, and hemoglobinopathies. There have been promising results that have been witnessed among children suffering from sickle cell disease and b-thalassaemia especially among racial and ethnic minorities (McKenna and Brunstein 151). The use of this form of transplantation for treating metabolic diseases has placed emphasis on the patient age as well as the disease. In particular, the transplant for Krabbes disease and immune deficiencies are more effective and increase survival and immunological recovery by more than 80% (McKenna and Brunstein 153). A higher cryopreserved NC dose (2.4 x 107/kg) among adult and children patient has been associated with high neutrophil recovery as well as increased event-free survival. This has made immune deficiency diseases become treatable.

The Working of Umbilical Cord Stem Cells

Cord banking is considered a main source of hematopoietic stem cell expansion. It has a great proliferative capacity and is able to renew itself compared to other sources of the stem cell. The cells derived from the umbilical cord have special tissues capable of in vitro differentiation to connect the bones, cartilage, and fat (Rodts 35). They are able to differentiate into three layers of embryo including endo-, ecto-, and mesoderm (McKenna and Brunstein 156). This means that the cord banking procedure contain immunophenotype and morphology characteristic which enable it to increase the frequency and expansion of the hematopoietic stem cells. The field of tissue engineering is currently testing the impact of these cells on the treatment of human diseases.

Umbilical cord is a rich source of immune cells which are currently being used in the clinical setting. Regulatory T cells, one of the sources, are known to provide expression factor of FoxP3 through the presence of the IL-2 receptor chain (CD25). This regulatory cell type can be used to treat autoimmune diseases and in organic transplant through adjunctive therapy. Research is being carried out into the possible use of stem cells in the future to treat diseases such as Parkinsons, Alzheimers, spinal-cord injury, diabetes and multiple sclerosis. (McDonagh 5). Umbilical cord blood also produces natural killer cells that are used to regulate an increase immunity of against hematopoiesis. It has up to 20% of lymphocytes that can help in the healing of cancer. These cells have been tested and proven to be more effective in providing therapeutic advantage over marrow cells or peripheral blood.

Recently, this technology has been used to treat heart failure, a major cause of morbidity and mortality globally. Clinical trials have focused on three key heart conditions: chronic heart failure, myocardial infarction, and cardiomyopathy (Ilic and Julia 877). The cord blood cells are capable of increasing vascular endothelial and epithelial cells aid in repairing damaged heart vessels due to myocardial infarctions. Studies have shown that the banking process produce cells that are able to engraft and migrate the heart muscles, decrease the infarction size, aid in the formation and proliferation of the heart and blood vessels, as well as improve the structural damage of the heart (Ilic and Julia 877). The cord blood contains hematopoietic, mesenchymal, and endothelial cells that are able to induce the regeneration of damaged heart cells and begin the healing process.

Another factor that makes cord blood an ultimate solution to a wide range of ailments is the fact that it can be pursued without matching of donor and recipients as it is in the case of bone marrow. Cord blood has been instrumental in providing an alternative to transplants that are hindered by the problem of tissue matching. Peripheral blood stem cell transplants and bone marrow continue to bar many from treatment as they are donor-reliant. Acquiring matching grafts have been a challenge for many medical practitioners despite having over 13 million registered volunteers. This has made umbilical cord blood become more acceptable and popular as an alternative transplant source. Since its first successful inception in 1988, cord blood has sufficed as a feasible alternative source of stem cells or hematopoietic cells for transplantation which is allergenic in nature (McKenna & Brunstein, 2010).

With the use of technology with respect to pluripotent stem cells, it is possible to develop Alzheimers disease in a dish and closely study it. Many trials have been done and are still being done to accelerate human cell-based translational. The causes and potential treatment of Alzheimers disease are still being researched and stem cells are the only outstanding benefit to kick off the research. Joshua Hunsberger said that, Although safety and ethical concerns remain, we call for the acceleration of human stem cell-based translational research into the causes and potential treatments of Alzheimers disease (Hunsberger, P. 219-300). Studying the disease will give the researchers the ability to come up with mechanism and new therapeutic approaches which will allow frequent screening of potential drug candidates.

The Controversy on Stem Cell Research

Amidst these benefits and uses for umbilical cord blood, there are various controversies that have been raised about the effectiveness of umbilical cord banking. There has not been a conclusive result on the benefits of the cord banking procedures. The meta-analyses and systematic approaches to testing the procedures are inconsistent and difficult (Cameron 185). The author concludes that only stem cells from peripheral or bone marrow are safe today. In addition, the government policies constructed have also prevented the use of banking ethically. The allowance for carrying out cord banking has made it difficult to prove that there are honest people who actually abandon the use of embryo (Cameron 185). The decisions made by s...

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