Cord Stem Cells – To Store Or Not To Store

In recent years, there had been an explosion of breakthroughs in the field of stem cell research. New developments such as 3-Dimensional use of stem cells (tissue engineering), bioreactors in up scaling productions of stem cell therapies, novel uses of stem cells and newer sources of stem cells are reported every year at the annual meetings of the International Society of Cellular Therapy. Cord tissue storage is one such recent interesting development.

 

What is it?

Cord tissue is actually the tissue from the umbilical cord itself. The medical name is called Wharton’s Jelly. It does contain a lot of stem cells but the composition is different from those derived from umbilical cord blood. These stem cells are called Mesenchymal Stem Cells, which are the new darlings of stem cell scientists because of their regenerative potentials.

There are numerous clinical trials involving the use of Mesenchymal Stem Cells in the field of Regenerative Medicine and in treating inflammatory or autoimmune disorders. This is because these Mesenchymal Stem cells can be cultured and differentiated to build mature cells such as bone cells, cartilage, connective tissue and cells of organs such as the heart and brain.

However, while the cord tissue is rich in Mesenchymal Stem Cells, it is not the only source in the body. The adipose (fat) tissue and the bone marrow are also excellent sources of them. And it is also possible to harvest these Mesenchymal Stem Cells from these two sources easily. In fact, the numerous trials using Mesenchymal Stem Cells to treat heart diseases, brain disorders like strokes/injuries, spinal cord injuries, degenerative joint disorders, sports injuries, inflammatory disorders like Crohns and many others are Mesenchymal Stem Cells derived from the bone marrow or adipose tissue. On the other hand, use of Mesenchymal Stem Cells from cord tissue is mainly in trials using animal models only.