Over the past 32 years, cord blood stem cell transplants have been used to save the lives of thousands of patients. Cord blood has been used to treat a wide variety of life-threatening conditions including cancer, immune disorders, and blood disorders.
Researchers have discovered that cord blood stem cells may also play an important role in treating conditions like heart disease, macular degeneration, rheumatoid arthritis, COVID-19, and several paediatric disorders.
To help you understand how cord blood transplants work, this guide will explain the difference between the two main types of transplants: autologous and allogenic.
What Is Autologous Cord Blood Transplant?
Autologous refers to cells or tissue that has come from the same person. An autologous stem cell transplant uses stem cells that come from the same person who will receive the transplant. In other words, the patient is their own donor.
The main benefit of using an autologous cells is that the cells will have identical Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA). HLA are proteins, or ‘markers’, that are inherited from a person’s parents (half from each parent). They are used by immune to determine which cells belong in the body and which cells do not.
When a patient receives a transfusion of cells with identical HLA markers, the immune system will see them as being a natural part of the body. This means they will not trigger an immune system response, which makes them a safer option compared to transplants that use donor cells from other people.
The downside of using autologous cord blood stem cells is that they may not be suitable for treating certain hereditary disorders. That’s because the cells may contain the genetic defect which causes the disorder to occur in the first place.
For autologous cord blood stem cells to be available, you must cryogenically preserve your child’s umbilical cord blood and at a cord blood bank like Cells4Life.
There have been hundreds of success stories involving autologous cord blood stem cell transplants over the past decade. One of those stories involved a young girl named Sparrow Morris.
Sparrow was just 20 months old when she fell into the family’s swimming pool and almost drowned. She didn’t have a pulse when pulled from the water and was quickly rushed to a local hospital.
Doctors were able to revive Sparrow, however, the incident caused severe brain damage due to oxygen deprivation. Over the next year, she received speech therapy, physiotherapy and occupational therapy on a daily basis. Although some progress was made, her cognitive function was still heavily impacted.
Fortunately, Sparrow’s mother had saved her daughter’s umbilical cord blood stem cells with Cells4Life. With the help of researchers from Duke University, Sparrow was enrolled in a clinical trial which was using cord blood stem cells to treat acquired brain injuries.
According to Tonya, Sparrow’s condition dramatically improved in the months after she received an infusion of her own cord blood stem cells. Today, she is an active and happy young toddler who is developing well. Read more case studies.
What Is Allogeneic Cord Blood Transplant?
The term allogeneic describes cells or tissues that are genetically dissimilar. An allogenic cord blood stem cell transplant involves a patient receiving stem cells from another person, which can be a close relative or unrelated donor.
For an allogeneic stem cell transplant to work, there must be a close HLA match between the donor and the patient. In most cases, doctors will consider a donor and patient with 8 to 10 identical HLA markers to be a ‘match’. People with a match should be able to safely share stem cells without the immune attacking them.
Because a person’s close relatives are genetically similar, it is more likely that they will be a HLA match with a patient. This means that parents who store their child’s umbilical cord blood may be able to use the stem cells it contains to treat their other children and close relatives.
Thousands of allogeneic stem cell treatments are performed each year, most of which use cord blood stem cells obtained from a close relative. One recent success story involved a young boy named Keegan Doheney.
When he was two years old, Keegan was diagnosed with leukaemia. Fortunately, his doctors were able to get his cancer into remission. When Keegan’s mother Wendy became pregnant again, she decided to keep her newborn’s cord blood in case either child developed cancer in the future and needed a stem cell infusion.
Wendy’s decision proved to be wise when Keegan was diagnosed with leukaemia again at age 5. Doctors told Wendy that a stem cell transplant would be required as a part of Keegan’s treatment.
Everyone was happy to discover that Keegan was a HLA match with his brother, so he could use his brother’s cord blood stem cells. After receiving his stem cell transplant, Keegan is now in remission once more. Read more case studies.