What are stem cells?
Numerous natural roles
- to replace the degenerating cells, ensuring natural cell renewal;
- to contribute to the growth of tissues and organs;
- to repair damaged tissues, following a trauma, ischaemia or simply during the ageing process.
Two types of stem cells
The umbilical cord stem cells are present in large proportions and have unique biological and immunological characteristics and their collection is carried out using a simple method and is without any risk for the mother or baby.
They are young “adult” cells and are principally two types: haematopoietic when they originate from the blood of the cord and mesenchymal when they originate from the cord tissue.
Umbilical cord stem cells
Unique biological and immunological characteristics
The main function of the umbilical cord (haematopoietic) stem cells is to produce blood cells: red blood cells (which transport oxygen), white blood cells (which fight against infection) and platelets (which stop bleeding).
These stem cells are already used to treat about 80 pathologies, essentially of blood diseases such as leukaemia, anaemia, lymphomas.
With the transplantation of umbilical cord stem cells, it is possible to substitute cells damaged by a treatment, such as chemotherapy against cancer, or by the disease itself.
The stem cells of the umbilical cord have the capacity to transform themselves into other types of cells, for example muscle cells including cardiac muscle cells, cartilaginous and boney cells, certain specialised cells such as those of the liver, kidneys, pancreas, skin and connective tissue. They contribute to scarring and to regeneration of tissue, and are therefore used to treat certain types of burns.
Mesenchymal stem cells of umbilical cord tissue may be used in special circumstances particularly for a combined transplantation with umbilical cord or bone marrow blood cells.
Under special circumstances it has been shown that the co-transplantation of haematopoietic stem cells with mesenchymal stem cells of the umbilical cord tissue is not only efficient and safe, but that this type of co-transplantation also allows for a very large reduction in the Graft-versus-Host Disease (GVHD).
The mesenchymal stem cells associated with haematopoietic stem cells help them to maintain either their correct function or the smooth functioning of the immune system.
More than 80 diseases treated
More than 40,000 patients
The stem cells have been used for several decades in the treatment of numerous diseases (more than 80) mainly in cancers of the blood, for example certain leukaemias, cancers of the lymphatic system (for example certain lymphomas) or bone marrow cancers (for example certain myelomas).
Over the last 10 years, 2 Nobel prizes in medicine have been awarded for works in this field.
Note – The stem cells extracted from umbilical cord blood have until now made it possible to treat more than 40,000 patients in the world.