What is cord blood?
The cord blood is known to contain a diverse mixture of different types of cells, including stem cells, the 'building blocks' of all cells in the body.
These include specialised stem cells such as hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPCs), which have the unique ability to develop into all the different blood cell types, as well as other types of stem cells.
Cord blood is also a source of unique populations of immune cells, called regulatory T-cells, which are important in controlling the immune system and may have therapeutic potential in the treatment of immune disorders.
The flexibility and diversity of stem cells found in cord blood is why they are so promising in improving the treatment of many diseases including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and neurological disorders.
Because they are derived from a developed individual, cord blood stem cells are classified as a type of adult stem cell, however, cord blood stem cells differ from other types of adult stem cells in a number of ways:
- Growth potential. Cord blood stem cells, because they are younger, grow faster and for longer than stem cells from other adult sources.
- Aging. All cells in the body have a type of "internal clock" which limits how many times they can divide. Because these cells are collected at the very earliest stage of life, this clock is set at a much earlier point.
- Damage. As we go through life our cells are continuously being exposed to damage from radiation, chemicals etc. At the time of birth this exposure is minimised; both because of protection by the mother and simply because the cells have had less time to acquire damage.
- Immune tolerance. One of the complications of haematopoietic stem cell transplants is that the stem cells can attack the patient's tissues (Graft vs Host disease). Because these stem cells are collected prior to maturity of the immune system, this is much less of a problem with cord blood.
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