At the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, researcher Paul Veys and his team have discovered that stem cells from cord blood are better at destroying leukaemia cells than stem cells from adult bone marrow.
Commonly, leukaemia treatment involves chemotherapy to destroy the blood cells that are causing the cancer. Unfortunately most of the healthy blood cells are killed as well so stem cells from bone marrow are used to help the body restore the circulatory system with healthy blood cells. at the same time, it’s hoped that new immune cells in the blood will finish off any residual cancer cells that escaped the chemotherapy.
Before conducting the research, Veys and his team had assumed that ‘new cord blood’ stem cells would be less effective than adult stem cells for blood cancer treatment but the reverse was found.
The researchers injected stem cells from adult bone marrow or cord blood stem cells into mice that had a form of human blood cancer called B-cell lymphoma. Tumours quickly disappeared from the mice that received the cord blood stem cells but continued to grow in mice that were treated with the adult bone marrow stem cells.
Further investigation revealed that the cord blood stem cells had triggered rapid production of CD4 cells which are the cells that control the immune system response to tumours and viruses. also, the tumours rapidly filled up with CD8 cells which are killer cells that actually destroy cancerous tissue.
The research team’s conclusion was that cord blood has special immunological abilities that may make it a better choice for leukaemia treatment than bone marrow.