In the past umbilical cord blood has proven an invaluable resource. The haematopoietic stem cells contained in the umbilical cord are similar to the stem cells found in bone marrow. They can be used to treat a broad range of conditions: from blood cell disorders to immune conditions to autoimmune diseases. Though they have typically been used to treat disorders in children, recently they have begun to be tested as potential treatment options for adult diseases.
According to one new study, these umbilical stem cells could be a valuable new resource to help doctors treat heart failure in adults!
The study, published by the American Heart Association, examined the effects of using mesenchymal stem cells taken from the umbilical cord to treat patients with heart failure and reduced ejection fraction. Previous studies have examined the use of bone marrow-derived stem cells, but this was the first study looking at stem cells taken from the umbilical cord.
The researchers gathered 30 patients from 18 to 75 years of age. All of them had suffered from heart failure in the past, receiving drug therapy to stabilize their heart condition. The patients were divided into two groups:
Group 1: Control – This group received an injection of a placebo.
Group 2: Experimental – This group received an injection of umbilical-derived stem cells.
Within a short amount of time, the results of the stem cell infusions were visible:
The experimental group saw a “sustained and significant” improvement in their ejection fraction (the ability of their hearts to pump blood). The improvement continued for the full year of monitoring after the trial.
The experimental group also saw improvements in their quality of life, thanks largely to their improved heart function. They were better able to engage in activities of daily life with fewer adverse cardiovascular reactions.
The experimental group saw a 55-fold increase in hepatocyte growth factor expression. This growth factor plays a vital role in immunoregulation, myogenesis, and cell migration.
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Here’s the kicker: none of the people receiving the stem cells presented with any adverse reactions. Even after 90 days of monitoring, the researchers found there were no indications of antibodies rejecting the stem cells.
The problem with many transplants—including bone marrow transplants—is that there is a serious risk of the body rejecting them. Both organ transplants and blood transfusions that should succeed ultimately fail because of this.
However, with the umbilical-derived stem cells, there was absolutely no rejection. The bodies of the grown adults absorbed and utilized the stem cells effectively, with no complications to hinder the effectiveness of the transfusion. Talk about amazing results!
Heart failure is one of the most common health problems in the world today. It’s estimated that at least 37 million people around the world are suffering from heart failure due to their heart’s inability to pump blood properly. Even worse, a significant number—as many as HALF—of patients diagnosed with heart failure will die within just five years of receiving their diagnosis.
The lead researcher talked about the inefficiency of current methods for treating heart failure, saying, “Standard drug-based regimens can be suboptimal in controlling heart failure, and patients often have to progress to more invasive therapies such as mechanical ventricular assist devices and heart transplantation.”
So it’s no wonder so many people are excited about the results of this new study! The researcher went on to say, “We are encouraged by our findings because they could pave the way to a non-invasive, promising new therapy for a group of patients who face grim odds.”
With umbilical-derived stem cells, the number of heart failure fatalities could be drastically curbed. All that is needed is the administration of stem cells harvested from umbilical cord blood—blood that is usually discarded after childbirth.
The umbilical stem cells used for this study came from healthy donors that underwent C-sections. All gave their informed consent, and the stem cells were harvested from the full-term placentas after the C-section was complete. The donation cost the mothers nothing, but the stem cells they delivered went on to improve the quality of life for 15 adults.
Imagine how many more lives could be saved with umbilical stem cells in the future! This new discovery highlights the importance of these stem cells, and shines a light on just how effective they are at treating this one condition. It’s not hard to think of how many more problems could benefit from stem cells…
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