Stem cell research is one of the most promising areas in medicine. This situation is underlined by the thousands of clinical trials in progress with stem cells from a range of sources, involving thousands of patients all over the world, for the treatment of a very wide range of diseases (cardiovascular, auto-immune and neurodegenerative diseases, etc.). In 2012, the potential of this area was once again recognised by the award of the Nobel Prize for Medicine to two researchers in the field of stem cells.
Main clinical trials in progress
Umbilical cord blood
- In addition to hematopoietic stem cells, umbilical cord blood, which is already used for the treatment of blood cancers, also contains endothelial progenitor cells (that can differentiate into blood vessel cells) and pluripotent stem cells (with the ability to differentiate into neural, bone and liver cells, among others).
- There are currently more than 400 clinical trials being run with umbilical cord blood stem cells.
- Among the most important trials are diseases such as cerebral palsy, type 1 diabetes and acquired hearing loss, among others.
Umbilical cord tissue
- Umbilical cord tissue is a rich source of mesenchymal stem cells that can differentiate into cartilage, bone and muscle, among other structures.
- Recent studies have been carried out based on the therapeutic potential of mesenchymal stem cells, reporting on their experimental use in patients with graft versus host disease, lupus and multiple sclerosis.
Clinical trials with Umbilical Cord Blood cells
- Type 1 diabetes
- Cerebral palsy and other neurological diseases
- Spinal cord injuries
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Acquired loss of hearing function
- Congenital heart disease
- Acute burns
- Alopecia areata
- Liver cirrhosis
- Infertility; Intrauterine Adhesions; Endometrial Dysplasia
Clinical trials with Umbilical Cord Tissue Cells
- Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- Ulcerative colitis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy
- Liver failure/li>
- Bronchopulmonary dysplasia
- Graft versus host disease
- Duchenne muscular dystrophy
- Diabetic foot
- Spinal cord injury
- Acute burns
- Rheumatoid arthitis
Due to the high volume of research and development initiatives currently in progress worldwide, some important success has already been achieved in the use of stem cells in various fields of medicine.
Stem cells allow regeneration of the maxilla for placement of dental implants
A 45-year-old woman was subjected to an experimental treatment to regenerate the upper maxilla. Five years earlier, as a result of an accident, this woman lost part of the front teeth and 75% of the maxilla that supported those teeth (which made it impossible to place dental implants). The team of Dr. Darnell Kaigler, Department of Oral and Periodontal Medicine of the School of Odontology at the University of Michigan, USA, managed to regenerate part of the maxilla using an innovative approach. The experts used an absorbable support, where they placed isolated stem cells from the patient’s own bone marrow. The support with the cells was implanted in the maxilla and, 4 months after, 80% of the missing maxilla had been regenerated, allowing the placement of implants for dental prosthesis application. Six months later, a dental prosthesis was placed which allowed the return of the smile to this patient.
4 year-old child can talk after treatment with autologous cord blood.
At 18 months, Isabella was diagnosed with speech apraxia (a neurological disorder that limits the development of speech) and at two and a half years, even attending kindergarten and getting specific therapy, her vocabulary was much reduced. The parents then sought about alternative treatments. By having knowledge of the existence of an experimental therapy for speech apraxia at Duke University in the US, her parents contacted Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, responsible for the study. With three and a half years the girl received an infusion of her own umbilical cord blood (cryopreserved at birth) and three weeks after her speech had improved significantly, being able to pronounce the name of her brother, among other words. The evolution of speech on this girl was evident, resulting in a greater ability to use new words and to make herself understood.
Scientists can “cure” diabetes in mice.
A group of MIT scientists, in collaboration with scientists at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and other institutions, developed a way to inject insulin-producing cells in diabetic mice, without destruction of these cells by the mice organism. These researchers had previously achieved in the laboratory significant quantities of functional insulin-producing cells obtained from stem cells, which would allow its application in diabetic patients. Now, these researchers were able to place the cells in a device that allowed the implant of the cells in mice, protecting them from being attacked by the immune system of the mice. Throughout the entire study, these insulin-producing cells were able to maintain normal glucose levels in mice. After 6 months, the device was removed, it was intact and the cells remained viable. This is indeed a major breakthrough in the area of diabetes, because it suggests that it is possible to reverse diabetes, however it will still be necessary to confirm its effectiveness in humans.