Why are umbilical cord blood stem cells so special?
At Rejuva Stem Cell Clinic, we use umbilical cord blood stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood obtained from healthy donors to treat a wide array of disorders, from repairing injuries to relieving joint pain to helping people feel more youthful and energetic. Umbilical cord-derived stem cells (UCSCs) have been shown to be equally effective in treating pain and injuries as the current gold standard bone marrow-derived stem cells (BMSCs), and have benefits in growing and dividing faster and for longer, as well as being far more convenient and pain-free to collect. But what exactly makes UCSCs so great at what they do?
For starters, stem cells are special types of cells that are able to proliferate (grow and divide) repeatedly and can differentiate (convert) into different types of cells. For example, certain types of stem cells in your bone marrow are what give rise to all the different blood cells in your veins, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. USCSs are from a younger source than BMSCs obtained from adults, and so are in a more primitive state. This means that UCSCs have a greater ability to differentiate into a wide variety of cell types, such as nerve cells, bone cells, cartilage cells, or muscle cells, which is essential for fully repairing injuries or restoring function to aging or damaged tissues.
Along with their capacity for differentiation, UCSCs are able to proliferate for long periods of time after being extracted from the cord blood. Most stem cells will eventually stop growing and dividing after a few months, a state known as senescence, when grown in the laboratory or after being injected into a patient, but UCSCs have been found to outlast other stem cell types including BMSCs and adipose (fat) stem cells. Researchers found that UCSCs express relatively low levels of three genes, called p53, p21, and p16, which are associated with cells entering a senescent state.
The ability of UCSCs to repair body tissues may come from their heightened production of proteins and other molecules that are essential for constructing and strengthening these tissues. One of these proteins is collagen, which forms part of the structural support network which holds the cells of your body in shape. UCSCs also produce abundant amounts of carbohydrates called glycosaminoglycans, which your body uses for lubrication and shock absorption. These are especially helpful in restoring flexibility and comfort to worn or damaged joints. The UCSCs themselves have been shown to have an ability to hone in on injuries to provide robust damage mitigation.
Finally, recent studies have found that UCSCs may have anti-inflammatory benefits as well. In laboratory cultures, UCSCs were able to suppress the activation of certain types of immune cells associated with inflammatory responses. The researchers found that UCSCs secreted a protein called Ang-1, which was able to lower the production of pro-inflammation signaling molecules from immune cells. Since inflammation plays a role in a number of different disorders, such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), and chronic inflammation can cause pain and tissue damage, the anti-inflammatory effects of UCSCs may be especially beneficial for future therapies of some currently untreatable diseases.
Wang, L; Tran, I; Seshareddy, K; A, H; Weiss, ML; Detamore, MS. 2009. A comparison of human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells and human umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stromal cells for cartilage tissue engineering. Tissue Engineering 15(8): 2259-2266.
Jin, HJ; Bae, YK; Kim, M; Kwon, SJ; Jeon, HB; Choi, SJ; Kim, SW; Yang, YS; Oh, W; Chang, JW. 2013. Comparative analysis of human mesenchymal stem cells from bone marrow, adipose tissue, and umbilical cord blood as sources of cell therapy. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 14: 17986-18001.
Yousefifard, M; Nasirinezhad, F; Manaheji, HS; Jansadeh, A; Hosseini, M; Keshavarz, M. 2016. Human bone marrow-derived and umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells for alleviating neuropathic pain in a spinal cord injury model. Stem Cell Research & Therapy 7:36