Blood cancers: the use of umbilical cord stem cells

The incredible properties of stem cells are increasingly known and recognized: they are the constituent elements of the human body, able to differentiate into any type of cell and offering the possibility of a renewable source of cells and tissue substitutes for the treatment of various diseases.

Haematopoietic stem cells are among the main resources used in the treatment of blood tumors. The normal procedure for the treatment of blood cancer involves the use of high doses of chemotherapy to attack and destroy cancer cells. This process, unfortunately, also damages the bone marrow, thus preventing the body from continuing to produce healthy blood cells and making the patient particularly vulnerable to infections and other diseases.

It is precisely here that haematopoietic stem cells come into play, which, once transplanted, restore the body’s ability to produce healthy blood cells. They also restore the patient’s immune system by helping them recover after chemotherapy.

These valuable cells can be obtained from bone marrow, peripheral blood and even from the umbilical cord. In particular, the umbilical cord is an extremely rich source of haematopoietic stem cells (contained in the blood) and mesenchymal stem cells (contained in the tissue).

While haematopoietic stem cells specialize in blood cells – red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets – mesenchymal stem cells can differentiate into many types of cells, including bone, adipose tissue, cartilage, and so on.

Among the many advantages of using umbilical cord stem cells is the youth of cells with greater tolerance to human leukocyte antigen (HLA) non-compatibility. This means that they are less likely to be rejected by the patient’s immune system after transplantation. Umbilical cord stem cells can therefore also be used when there is no complete HLA compatibility between donor and recipient.

Furthermore, umbilical cord stem cells are easy to obtain: the collection procedure takes no more than 15 minutes after childbirth. In addition, it is a totally painless process without any problem for both the mother and the baby.

Do not waste such a valuable resource; preserve the umbilical cord stem cells of your baby. Nescens Swiss Stem Cell Science offers private preservation services in Switzerland for the exclusive use of the family.

Preserving your baby’s stem cells could change someone’s life

Until recently, once given birth, the baby’s umbilical cord ended up straight in the bin and was simply thrown away. Now, however, families have the opportunity to choose the umbilical cord banking and thus to preserve a valuable resource for the medicine of the future.

Stem cells banking consists of collecting cord blood and tissue, isolating and cryogenizing the stem cells contained in them and storing these samples in tanks of liquid nitrogen.

One might wonder why to store umbilical cord stem cells, and the answer is very simple. Scientific research has demonstrated the value and potential of stem cells, which have the ability to recreate tissues, repair the body and regenerate wounds.

But how can umbilical cord stem cells change someone’s life?

  1. Cord blood stem cells (haematopoietic) are used to treat over 80 diseases, including various forms of cancer, blood disorders, and immune and metabolic system disorders.
  2. Cord tissue stem cells (mesenchymals) are used for the regeneration of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and various organs, as well as for the treatment of cerebral palsy and autism, diabetes and heart failure.
  3. They are the basis of regenerative medicine, a new branch of science that deals with the development of innovative and advanced therapies aimed at the structural and functional restoration of damaged organs and tissues. The preservation of cord blood stem cells therefore allows the use of one’s own samples to treat in the future all sorts of conditions not yet treatable or under study.

Preserving your baby’s umbilical cord stem cells not only offers the opportunity to fight against many diseases, but also the chance to benefit from continuous new scientific discoveries and future applications.

If you are interested in private preservation with Nescens Swiss Stem Cell Science, find out more about stem cell banking here.

Stem cells: a key factor in many diseases

At this year’s meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR), thousands of leading researchers in the field of stem cell research discussed the prospect of a disease-free future and reaffirmed the crucial role of stem cells in this regard.

Because of their unique ability to differentiate into other cell types, stem cells could be the key factor in future medicine. These cells are extraordinarily ductile and, under the right conditions, can be transformed into any type of cell needed for a given treatment.

Dr. Deepak Srivastava, one of the world’s leading stem cell experts and next president of ISSCR, presented his first-hand experience in cardiac stem cell development. His laboratory focuses on the use of stem cells for the regeneration of heart tissue damaged by heart attack.

«Think about diseases where organs have lost cells they need to function, and have little to no capacity to regenerate themselves. […] But with stem cells, we no longer accept this idea that people have disease from lost cells. The aim is to regenerate damaged tissues in the cells – restore those cells – and fix the crux of the problem,» says Dr. Srivastava.

Alongside stem cell research, gene editing also plays a key role in the medicine of the future: by combining the two disciplines, you have more opportunities to understand and treat diseases and disorders such as sickle cell anemia. From a small amount of blood of the patient affected by the disease, it is possible to modify the cells so that they regress to their state of embryonic stem cells. Finally, gene editing can correct the genetic mutations that cause the disease, then convert the cells back into mature cells and “return” them to the patient through a simple blood transfusion.

Stem cell research and gene editing can also improve drug research: for example, the biggest challenge for Alzheimer’s patients is to find a gene therapy. In this case, stem cells are differentiated into brain cells that present the mutation which causes the disorder, so as to allow a more precise pharmaceutical screening.

«Stem cell research is not just for regeneration and replacement, but also for discovering appropriate drugs for a host of diseases,» explains Dr. Srivastava, «Several clinical studies are underway right now – trials for spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s disease, and even blindness. […] When you step back and think about it, it is the convergence of multiple technologies that help us treat human diseases in a very different way than before».

Visit our website and learn how to preserve your baby’s umbilical cord stem cells with Nescens Swiss Stem Cell Science.

First blood-brain barrier chip created from stem cells

Many neurological disorders have been linked to blood-brain barrier defects, including multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s syndrome, and Huntington’s disease.

The blood-brain barrier has the fundamental function of preventing all toxins and other foreign substances in the blood from penetrating into the brain tissue, causing damage. Similarly, the blood-brain barrier also blocks certain drugs administered for therapeutic purposes, preventing the patient from receiving them.

Thanks to the collaboration between Dr. Gad Vatine and Dr. Clive N. Svendsen – respectively of BGU’s Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research Center and Department of Physiology and Cell Biology, and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles – for the first time the blood-brain barrier of a patient was duplicated. From this duplicate a blood-brain barrier chip was created using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), in order to study in greater detail the congenital neurological disorders and especially to be able to develop personalized and testable drugs thanks to the chip.

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The researchers genetically manipulated the blood cells taken from a patient, bringing them back to their state of stem cell (induced pluripotent stem cells – iPSC). IPSCs have the ability to differentiate into any cell type and are used to create the cells that compose the blood-brain barrier.

These cells are placed on a microfluidic blood-brain barrier organ-chip, which contains thousands of living human cells and tissues, thus recreating the natural physiology and mechanical forces that the cells experience within the human body.

Thanks to the blood-brain barrier chip, researchers can test the effectiveness of therapeutic drugs for different neurological disorders, since the duplicated cells will present the same congenital defect as the patient from whom they were taken. In addition, this study could represent an important breakthrough for new research techniques on brain diseases.

«By combining patient-specific stem cells and organ-on-chip technology, we generated a personalized model of the human blood-brain barrier,» says Dr. Vatine. «The on-chip blood-brain barrier generated from several individuals allows the prediction of the best suited brain drug in a personalized manner. The study’s findings create dramatic new possibilities for precision medicine».

Find out more about the potential of stem cells, and about how to store your baby’s umbilical cord blood and tissue with Nescens Swiss Stem Cell Science.

Hair loss: the solution could come from stem cells

At the last annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, a team of researchers from the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (USA) presented a study on the cultivation of hair follicles from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), obtaining a “Merit Award”.

Hair loss is a health problem, which can depend on several factors – such as genetics, aging, a disease, an aggressive therapy or even childbirth. This condition affects both men and women, and often children, resulting in emotional distress that significantly affects the quality of life, often leading to anxiety and depression.

Professor Alexey Terskikh and his team have been working since 2015 on the replacement of the dermal papilla, a type of cell that resides in the hair bulb and is responsible for the nourishment and development of the hair. Thanks to induced pluripotent stem cells – adult cells reprogrammed to return to an embryonic state – the researchers succeeded in achieving the of regrowth of hair from the skin itself, just like the natural ones.

The result seems to be truly extraordinary and promising: the hair looks very natural, both in growth and in the color and thickness of the hair. It can also continue to grow and increase in volume.

To help the hair grow in the right direction, a sort of 3D scaffolding has been created, so that it is possible to control the direction of hair growth and promote the integration of the stem cells (iPSC) into the patient’s skin.

«This is a critical breakthrough in the development of cell-based hair loss therapy and the regenerative medicine field», says Prof. Terskikh. Moreover, «Now we have a robust, highly controlled method for generating natural-looking hair that grows through the skin, using an unlimited source of human iPSC-derived dermal papilla cells».

The umbilical cord is an invaluable source of hematopoietic and mesenchymal stem cells. Their collection is a unique opportunity, possible at the time of childbirth. Find out more about the conservation procedure with Nescens Swiss Stem Cell Science.

Guiding light: directing stem cells towards injuries

Imagine if doctors could have a remote control to guide the stem cells to the injured points of the body to speed up the healing process of the patients. The remote control is still far from reality, but a group of Chinese researchers have taken an important step forward in the study of stem cells and their regenerative properties.

In the study published in the journal Nano Letters, Professor Wang Hong-Hui and Nie Zhou of Hunan University explain how they managed to use nano devices in cells to activate the receptors responsible for the growth and movement of cells through infrared light.

Cellular activities are coordinated by complex signaling pathways, which control their movement, proliferation and even death. Signaling molecules bind to the receptor tyrosine kinases proteins – present on the cell surface – triggering the formation of receptor pairs (MET), which cause the cell to move or grow.

The research team designed a DNA molecule that can bind to two MET receptors simultaneously, connecting and activating them. To make them sensitive to infrared light, scientists have tied copies of DNA sequences to gold nano rods. These, when illuminated by infrared light, heat up and release the DNA, which in turn activates the receptors. In this way, stem cells migrate to the injured area, concentrating their regenerative capacity there.

The researchers injected the DNA-bound nano rods into laboratory mice near the injured area, and then illuminated it with infrared light for a few minutes. Three days later, muscle stem cell migration to the wound was recorded and treated mice showed more signs of muscle regeneration than untreated mice.

This new discovery therefore offers a powerful and versatile platform for exogenous modulation of deep tissue in regenerative medicine.

Nescens Swiss Stem Cell Science is committed to providing innovative and high quality services in the emerging area of regenerative medicine, which is why it offers the possibility to store umbilical cord blood and tissue stem cells for family and private use in case of need for future therapeutic treatment: find out how by visiting our website.

Immunotherapy: Natural Killer obtained from stem cells for the treatment of cancer

A new form of immunotherapy for the treatment of cancer was approved for a clinical trial last February: the study will involve 64 patients with advanced, untreatable cancer, who will be given infusions of “Natural Killer” (NK) cells obtained from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS).

The research of the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, led by Dr. Dan Kaufman – director of the cell therapy department and professor of medicine at the University’s Division of Regenerative Medicine – was published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine and then approved for the first phase of clinical trial by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA).

Dr. Kaufman and his team of researchers managed to find the method to develop a significant number of NK cells from human iPS cells for cancer therapy. The iPS are produced in the laboratory from adult stem cells that are “reprogrammed” (induced) so that they return to an embryonic state. In this way, reprogrammed cells can be differentiated into any cell type, property for which they are defined as pluripotent.

For this research, iPS cells have been matured into NK cells, i.e. specialized immune cells that are particularly aggressive against cancer cells. «This is a landmark accomplishment for the field of stem cell-based medicine and cancer immunotherapy. This clinical trial represents the first use of cells produced from human induced pluripotent stem cells to better treat and fight cancer,» says Dr. Kaufman.

The use of iPS allows researchers to produce a never-ending stream of cells, as they only need a robust method to transform iPS into any other cell type. In addition, since they do not need to be matched to a specific patient, the researchers affirm that the FT500 treatment – so called by the team – can be administered in the outpatient setting as an off-the-shelf cell product, significantly reducing the time and resources required for the treatment of patients.

«If this works, patients can be treated “en masse” with these cells, given and administered like other drugs, but are living cellular products,» explains Dr. Sandip Patel, who follows one of the patients enrolled in the trial.

The main objectives of the trial are to evaluate the safety and efficacy of treatment; determine the extent to which tumors respond to cell therapy with NK; find out how long cells remain in the body of patients. This clinical trial could pave the way not only for a new generation of immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer, but also for other cell therapies derived from iPS cells.

The umbilical cord stem cells are present in large proportions and have unique biological and immunological characteristics, their collection is carried out at birth thanks to a simple procedure and without any risk for the mother or baby. Find out how to store them with Nescens Swiss Stem Cell Science.

Eye diseases and cell therapy

Laboratory and clinical research in the field of cell therapy applied to ophthalmology is increasing significantly, showing how stem cells can become a new treatment opportunity for patients affected by eye diseases.

At Stanford University, Jeffrey Goldberg, Professor of Ophthalmology at Byers Eye Institute, is working with his team on the application of cell therapy for glaucoma.

When eye pressure increases dramatically, the retinal ganglion cells (RGC) die and, unable to regenerate or be replaced, there is a gradual loss of vision. RGCs play a fundamental role in vision, being responsible for processing and transporting information from the eye to the brain via the optic nerve.

Prof. Goldberg’s research focuses on the protection or regeneration of RGC through the use of stem cells, which can generate a neuroprotective effect that slows down or prevents the degeneration of RGC. Similarly, they can replace lost RGCs and restore neuronal connections between the eye and brain.

Mesenchymal stem cells are in fact able to produce proteins that promote the healing of damaged cells and their property of regeneration and differentiation puts them in a privileged position in the therapeutic field.

An even more striking result was achieved by a team of Italian researchers from the Ophthalmology Unit of the University of Bologna coordinated by Dr. Piera Versura. The scientists have in fact patented a revolutionary eye drops, obtained from a part of the umbilical cord blood, the serum, rich in growth factors whose properties are effective in fighting glaucoma disease thanks to their neuroprotective effect.

«With this biological eyewash – confirms Dr. Versura – we have achieved significant added value through the use of cord blood, administering a drug that is the result of the natural development of a new life. Cord blood is in fact produced in a period of high metabolic demand and could therefore represent a powerful combination of trophic factors, i.e. those substances produced by the body that can ensure the survival of cells and stimulate their growth».

Umbilical cord blood and tissue are an inestimable source of stem cells and growth factors. Consider the possibility of preserving your child’s umbilical cord stem cells with Nescens Swiss Stem Cell Science and protect their future health.

Hearing loss and application of multipotent stem cells

Hearing loss is a disabling condition that significantly alters lifestyle, leading to depression and social isolation. Around 466 million people worldwide suffer from debilitating hearing loss, 34 million of whom are children.

Hearing loss can result from genetic causes, traumatic injuries, certain infectious diseases, chronic ear infections, the use of particular drugs, exposure to excessive noise and aging. The treatments commonly used to date involve surgery in case of injuries and cochlear implantation if patients are suffering from severe hearing loss.

Hearing impairment – the most common human sensory deficit – is mainly caused by damage to or loss of hair cells in the inner ear, which are responsible for sending the perceived acoustic signals from the cochlea of the inner ear to the brain. Unfortunately, once damaged or lost, hair cells and auditory neurons are unable to regenerate.

In recent decades, the potential of stem cells has finally been revealed and many researchers decided as early as 2008 to investigate whether these cells can also restore the auditory system.

Focusing on mesenchymal stem cells and their ability to differentiate into many types of cells but, above all, on their ability to detect damaged cells and regenerate them, researchers at Stanford Medicine, Rutgers University, MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Harvard identified a treatment option for hearing loss.

Under the right conditions, mesenchymal stem cells can develop into cells that are significantly similar to hair cells. In addition, they are able to differentiate into auditory neurons. These results demonstrate the potential of stem cells to restore the hearing system, even though they are still in the clinical study phase. Multipotent stem cells therefore appear to be the ideal resource for the regeneration of auditory neurons and hair cells.

The umbilical cord is a valuable source of multipotent stem cells, both haematopoietic (blood) and mesenchymal (tissue). Consult our website or contact us for more information on the therapeutic potential of stem cells and the conservation of this important resource.

Heart failure: enabling the heart to regenerate itself

Heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to supply the blood in a quantity appropriate to the actual demand of the body. In Switzerland, more than 150,000 people suffer from this condition, and research is increasingly focusing on how to replace damaged tissue in order to maintain cardiac function for as long as possible.

Leonard Y. Lee, President of the Department of Surgery at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and his team of researchers recently published their study on the creation of heart muscle cells from stem cells to help damaged hearts heal themselves.

The research began with the collection of connective tissue cells from a human heart (fibroblasts) that were reverse-engineered, i.e. converted into stem cells, and then “transformed” back into heart muscle cells (re-engineered).

These new cardiac muscle cells grouped into a single unit, the beat of which was visible under the microscope. Normally, the cells thus created do not come together. The revolutionary and innovative aspect of this study lies in fact in the discovery of the ability of a proteinCREG – to group the created cardiac muscle cells into a single unit.

The over-expression of the CREG protein has made this process possible. Gene expression means the process by which the information contained in a gene (consisting of DNA) is converted into a functional macromolecule (typically a protein). The CREG protein, when over-expressed, i.e. expressed in increased amounts, induces the differentiation of stem cells into specific cells – in this case, cardiac muscle cells.

«Heart failure has reached epidemic proportions. Right now, the only option to treat it is surgery, transplant or connecting the patient with a blood-pumping machine» says Lee, «But transplantable hearts are in short supply and mechanical devices limit the patient’s quality of life, so we are working for ways to help hearts heal themselves».

The ultimate goal of this research is therefore to be able to remove small amounts of heart tissue from a patient, convert it into stem cells, use the CREG protein to transform them into heart muscle cells, and re-insert these cells into the patient’s heart so that it can self-regenerate. Moreover, because the new cells are created from those of the patient’s own organ, they would be easily accessible and there would be no fear of rejection.