Understanding the importance of stem cells

The importance of stem cells lies in their ability to regenerate and diversify. So, they have found many applications in cellular therapies and regenerative medicine.

The first autologous cord blood transplant (using an experimental protocol),was done successfully in Europe in 2001 for treatment of an 10 months old infant suffering from a cancer of the eye retinoblastoma, while in January 2007 was announced the first autologous cord blood transplant to treat pediatric leukemia.

Cord blood, which until a few years ago was considered as a biological waste, it proved to be a biological wealth, even if for the moment most protocols are experimental.

Mesenchymal stem cells mainly located in umbilical cord, do not have a hematopoietic activity, but have large "plasticity," being capable to differentiate to various cell types, such as bone cells, chondrocytes, adipocytes, myocytes, myocardial cells, nerve cells and skin cells (experimental protocols).

The rapid progress achieved in the field planned to offer new solutions to develop effective drugs and lead to the application of innovative therapies even for diseases which until now are considered incurable.

"Stem Cell FAQ". US Department of Health and Human Services. 2004.
Hayani et al, Leukemia Pediatrics. 119:296-300, 2007