Regenerative medicine also includes the possibility of growing tissues and organs in the laboratory and safely implanting them when the body cannot heal itself. If a regenerated organ's cells would be derived from the patient's own tissue or cells, this would potentially solve the problem of the shortage of organs available for donation, and the problem of organ transplant rejection.
The term “regenerative medicine” was first found in a 1992 article on hospital administration by Leland Kaiser. Kaiser’s paper closes with a series of short paragraphs on future technologies that will impact hospitals. One paragraph had “Regenerative Medicine” as a bold print title and stated, “A new branch of medicine will develop that attempts to change the course of chronic disease and in many instances will regenerate tired and failing organ systems.”
The widespread use of the term regenerative medicine is attributed to William Haseltine (founder of Human Genome Sciences), after he was briefed on the project to isolate human embryonic stem cells and embryonic germ cells at Geron Corporation in collaboration with researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and Johns Hopkins Medical School. These newly-isolated cell lines opened the door for the first time in history to the practical manufacture of all the cell types of the human body for use in regenerative therapy.
Regenerative medicine refers to a group of biomedical approaches to clinical therapies that may involve the use of stem cells. Examples include the injection of stem cells or progenitor cells obtained through Directed differentiation (cell therapies); the induction of regeneration by biologically active molecules administered alone or as a secretion by infused cells (immunomodulation therapy); and transplantation of in vitro grown organs and tissues (tissue engineering).
Because a person's own (autologous) cord blood stem cells can be safely infused back into that individual without being rejected by the body's immune system — and because they have unique characteristics compared to other sources of stem cells — they are an increasing focus of regenerative medicine research.
The use of cord blood stem cells in treating conditions such as brain injury and Type 1 Diabetes is already being studied in humans, and earlier stage research is being conducted for treatments of stroke, and hearing loss.
Current estimates indicate that approximately 1 in 3 Americans could benefit from regenerative medicine. With autologous (the person's own) cells, there is no risk of the immune system rejecting the cells.
Researchers are exploring the use of cord blood stem cells in the following regenerative medicine applications:
A clinical trial under way at the University of Florida is examining how an infusion of autologous cord blood stem cells into children with Type 1 diabetes will impact metabolic control over time, as compared to standard insulin treatments. Preliminary results demonstrate that an infusion of cord blood stem cell is safe and may provide some slowing of the loss of insulin production in children with type 1 diabetes.
The stem cells found in a newborn’s umbilical cord blood are holding great promise in cardiovascular repair. Researchers are noting several positive observations in pre-clinical animal studies. Thus far, in animal models of myocardial infarction, cord blood stem cells have shown the ability to selectively migrate to injured cardiac tissue, improve vascular function and blood flow at the site of injury, and improve overall heart function.
Research has demonstrated convincing evidence in animal models that cord blood stem cells injected intravenously have the ability to migrate to the area of brain injury, alleviating mobility related symptoms. Also, administration of human cord blood stem cells into animals with stroke was shown to significantly improve behavior by stimulating the creation of new blood vessels and neurons in the brain.
This research also lends support for the pioneering clinical work at Duke University, focused on evaluating the impact of autologous cord blood infusions in children diagnosed with cerebral palsy and other forms of brain injury. This study is examining if an infusion of the child’s own cord blood stem cells facilitates repair of damaged brain tissue, including many with cerebral palsy. To date, more than 100 children have participated in the experimental treatment – many whose parents are reporting good progress.
Another report published encouraging results in Experimental Cord Blood Stem Cell Infusion for Cerebral Palsy.
As these clinical and pre-clinical studies demonstrate, cord blood stem cells will likely be an important resource as medicine advances toward harnessing the body’s own cells for treatment. The field of regenerative medicine can be expected to benefit greatly as additional cord blood stem cell applications are researched and more people have access to their own preserved cord blood.
On May 17, 2012, Osiris Therapeutics announced that Canadian health regulators approved Prochymal, a drug for acute graft-versus-host disease in children who have failed to respond to steroid treatment. Prochymal is the first stem cell drug to be approved anywhere in the world for a systemic disease. Graft-versus-host disease, a potentially fatal complication from bone marrow transplant, involves the newly implanted cells attacking the patient’s body.