It is important to note that there are currently no approved therapies using the cells found in cord tissue, though many trials using these cells are underway around the world.
Until the results of these trials are known, a decision to store cord tissue is speculative. To this end, even if therapies are made available, there is no guarantee that cord tissue collected and stored today will be able to be used for the purpose of such therapies.
If therapies do emerge in the future using stem cells derived from cord tissue, it is reasonable to assume that the best cells for an individual will be his or her own, because they will be a perfect genetic match.
Cord tissue is rich in mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which are the stem cells that give rise to many of the “support tissues” in the body, including bone, cartilage, fat and muscle. Because MSCs are a different type of cell than those found in cord blood, they should be seen as complementing rather than replacing cord blood stem cells.
MSCs are considered prospective for future regenerative medicine therapies. They are currently being investigated in the treatment of bone fractures and cartilage damage, for which they have been used in the veterinary industry for a number of years with considerable success. More recently, MSCs are being investigated for the treatment of heart and skeletal muscle diseases.
MSCs have also been shown to dampen unwanted or excessive immune responses, much like the immune cells in cord blood. They are therefore being investigated for the treatment of autoimmune diseases and the complications of incompatibility in transplantation.
Finally, MSCs play an important role in the maintenance of blood stem cells within the bone marrow. Because of this function they are being used to help grow blood stem cells in the laboratory, with the aim of improving the safety of cord blood transplants.
Although this research is still at an early stage and medical treatments are not currently available, the unique properties of these cells make them promising for future cellular therapies. There are numerous clinical studies looking at the role of MSCs in a wide variety of conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and spinal, brain and cartilage injuries.
To read more about global research into cord tissue click here.