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Understanding the Medical Value of Stem Cells in Umbilical Cord Blood, Umbilical Cord Tissue, and the Placenta

July 13, 2021
Researcher Studying Stem Cells

Stem cells are quite an impressive type of human cell. They are raw materials produced by humans that give life to all other cell types in the body, from brain cells to muscle cells, and they are even used in regenerative medicine, meaning stem cells can help to repair damaged cells, reduce inflammation, and more. While stem cells are found in the skin, bone marrow, blood, heart, brain, and other tissues, they also appear in the umbilical cord blood and tissue, as well as the placenta, and researchers have discovered the potentially life-saving benefits these stem cells can offer. Let’s explore in more detail the medical value of umbilical cord blood, umbilical cord tissue, and placenta-based stem cells to help raise more cord blood awareness.

Stem Cells in Umbilical Cord Blood

The umbilical cord connects the fetus to the mother during pregnancy and is responsible for delivering food and oxygen to the fetus and carrying the fetus’ waste to the placenta, where it is then processed by the mother. Within the umbilical cord’s blood are hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), which are only accessible directly after birth and can survive for decades when deeply frozen. Since they were discovered in 1961, HSCs have shown efficacy in treating conditions such as:

  • Cancer
  • Tumors
  • Blood disorders
  • Immune system deficiencies
  • And more…

While more continues to be learned about HSCs and the other conditions they might aid in treating, there are already several known advantages to using HSCs in treatment over other modalities, such as medication. For one, HSCs completely match the baby’s DNA, meaning they can be used to treat not only the baby as an adult but also their siblings and other family members. Cord blood stem cells are also known to be more immunologically naïve than adult stem cells, giving doctors more flexibility in how they’re used.

Stem Cells in Umbilical Cord Tissue

Sometimes referred to as Wharton’s jelly, umbilical cord tissue houses a plethora of stem cells that were first discovered in the 1990s. These stem cells are classified as mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which develop into cells found in the bone, skin, cartilage, nervous system, sensory organs, and circulatory tissues. Compared to the HSCs found in umbilical cord blood, MSCs are able to:

  • Generate growth factors that facilitate tissue repair
  • Mitigate inflammation after tissue damage
  • Divide into various bone, fat, and neural cells, as well as cartilage

Stem Cells in the Placenta

The placenta plays a vital role in transferring nutrients and oxygen from the mother to the fetus and removing waste from the fetus. MSCs are also found in rich abundance within placental tissue, and while doctors have already proven their efficacy in repairing fat tissues, bones, and cartilage, a host of clinical trials are currently exploring their role in the treatment of diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and many other conditions. Share this article to help us raise more placenta, cord tissue, and cord blood awareness, or contact Richmond University Medical Center in Staten Island, New York, for more information.