Immunotherapy is a new field of medicine where scientists multiply or modify the native cells of the immune system to help the body fight off viral infection, cancer, and other diseases.
There is a growing body of research to suggest that umbilical cord blood (UCB) may be the perfect source material for cellular immunotherapies.
It has become common for cord blood conferences to feature speakers talking about how they might use UCB to obtain T-cells or NK cells. Here is a little more information on how cord blood may be useful for developing new immunotherapy treatments.
The Many Cells Contained Within Cord Blood
Umbilical cord blood is known for containing powerful hematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cells. However, it also contains other types of cells and components which can be used to create other cells. Scientists have already used cord blood to create:
- Regulatory T cells (T-regs)
- Virus-specific T-cells (VST)
- Cytoxic T lymphocytes (CTL)
- Chimeric antigen receptor modified T-cells (CAR-T)
- Natural killer cells (NK) and CAR-NK cells
These cells all play an important role in the body’s immune system, protecting the body from viruses and diseases like cancer. Biotechnology companies have developed methods for creating cord blood products from these cells.
There are also products which can increase the number of available cells in a cord blood sample, which improves the success rate of stem cell transplants. Researchers have even managed to culture mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC), which may be useful for a number of treatments in the field of regenerative medicine.
Of 123 cord blood trials being conducted in 2020, 41% are using specialised cell product derived from cord blood — not just unmanipulated cord blood cells. This is proof that researchers are beginner to modify cord blood to access all of the cells it contains and improve how those cells work.
CAR immunotherapy is currently the most popular form of cell therapy, with the number of CAR trials increasing by over 25 times in the past decade. The latest trials are creating allogeneic immunotherapies from universal donors that can be used off the shelf. These types of treatments may be useful for a wide range of diseases, including cancer and immune system disorders.