StemCells General Information

Written by Mariana Gutierrez. Posted in Diseases Treated With Stem Cells, Why Cord Blood

Cord Blood History

Scientific research and the medical use of stem cells can be traced back to the early 1950s; only a few decades later, the first umbilical cord blood transplant was made in 1988. Since then, medical research and development into the use of cord blood stem cells has fast gathered pace, revealing life saving possibilities on an almost daily basis.

  • Scientists discover that stem cells have similar features to those of bone marrow stem cells and suggest using them as a substitute for bone marrow transplantation.
  • Cord blood stem cells are produced for the first time.
  • First transplant of cord blood stem cells from a donor in the family (Paris): The life of a 6-year-old patient suffering from Fanconi Anemia (severe blood disease) is saved by a transplant of cord blood stem cells collected at the birth of his sister1.
  • First private cord blood bank (CBR) is established. David T. Harris, the scientific founder of the bank, collects and preserves his newborn son’s cord blood.
  • First private cord blood bank is established in Europe.
  • First clinical use of expanded cord blood stem cells in the US.
  • First autologous transplant of cord blood stem cells in Brazil.
  • Three autologous (self) cord blood transplants.
  • Cord blood transplants become a valid alternative for adults.
  • Successful stem cells treatment after stroke.
  • First double cord transplant.
  • Publication of research results after a six year trial of cord blood stem cell transplants for leukemia in 316 patients. Success rates were similar to 600 peripheral blood transplants.
  • First clinical trial for treating children suffering from cerebral palsy with self cord blood transplantation begins at Duke University2 (the experiment is currently in Phase 2).
  • Cord Blood Education Laws approved and implemented in 27 US states.
  • First clinical trial of self cord blood treatment in children with traumatic brain injuries (TBA) begins in Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital3.
  • Clinical trial for autism treated with self cord blood stem cells begins in Sutter Neuroscience Institute, Sacramento California4.
  • End of a clinical trial (phase 3) – treating patients with malignant disease of the blood system using expanded stem cells developed by the Gamida Cell company.


1Eliane Gluckman, M.D., Hal E. Broxmeyer, Ph.D., Arleen D. Auerbach, Ph.D., Henry S. Friedman, M.D., Gordon W. Douglas, M.D., Agnes Devergie, M.D., Helene Esperou, M.D., Dominique Thierry, Ph.D., Gerard Socie, M.D., Pierre Lehn, M.D., Scott Cooper, B.S., Denis English, Ph.D., Joanne Kurtzberg, M.D., Judith Bard, and Edward A. Boyse, M.D., F.R.S.N Engl J Med 1989; 321:1174-1178

Types of Stem Cells

There are three main categories of stem cells:

  • Embryonic stem cells

  • AssureImmune does not collect or use embryonic stem cells.
  • Embryonic stem cells are stem cells derived from embryos. These embryos have developed in vitro fertilized eggs donated for research purposes with the informed consent of the donors.
  • Embryonic stem cells are harvested within four to five days of fertilization when the embryo is a hollow microscopic ball of cells called the blastocyst. The harvesting process must necessarily destroy the embryo.
  • Researchers are very interested in studying embryonic stem cells because of their ability to reproduce indefinitely and because they are totipotent: An embryonic stem cell has the ability to become every single cell in the body including placenta cells.
  • Although much research is being conducted, to date, there are no successful therapies using embryonic stem cells.
  • Cord blood stem cells

  • Cord blood stem cells are cells collected from the umbilical cord of the newborn after birth. This blood offers a primary stem cell source of particularly high quality – young, relatively flawless and free of infection contamination. Cord blood stem cells carry the unique and phenomenal biological ability to transform into different types of cells in the body, continually dividing and renewing themselves.
  • Collection of stem cells from umbilical cord blood is a fast and simple process; it does not require contact with the baby, and is neither painful nor dangerous for the newborn or mother.
  • Modern medicine enables us to collect cord blood and preserve it for decades, retrieving it immediately, should the need arise, to treat severe diseases.
  • Support for the use of cord blood cells is widespread and there are currently no serious ethical concerns as compared to other stem cells. Stem cell therapy that uses umbilical cord cells is quite straight forward.
  • Adult stem cells

  • Adult stem cells can be found in bone marrow and peripheral blood. An adult stem cell is an undifferentiated cell found among differentiated cells in bone marrow, peripheral blood, tissues and organs. It can renew itself indefinitely and can also differentiate to yield the specialized cell types of the tissue or organ.
  • The primary roles of adult stem cells in a living organism are to maintain and repair the tissue in which they are found.
  • These properties make adult stem cells ideal for regenerative therapies. In this area stem cell research is focusing on finding treatments and cures for diseases of the blood, immune system, tissues and organs.