During the pregnancy umbilical cord serve as a lifeline of the baby, connecting it with placenta – an organ through which it gets oxygen and all necessary nutrients from the mother´s organism. After the birth of the baby, umbilical cord blood (UCB) was routinely discarded with placenta as medical waste, until in 1988 scientists suggested that UCB could be used as a source of hematopoietic stem cells.
It had taken almost 6 years of scientific research until first umbilical cord blood transplantation was performed in 1988 in Paris to treat a 5 years old patient suffering from the Fanconi anemia (FA). Umbilical cord blood was collected and cryopreserved after the birth of his sister that was not affected with FA, as it was determined by prenatal diagnosis. At that time umbilical cord blood transplantation had never been performed in humans before!
Established method of treatment was based on the bone marrow transplantation. However, acquisition of the bone marrow-derived hematopoietic cells requires additional surgical intervention, whereas umbilical cord blood could be collected without any harm to newborn sister of the patient. Taking into consideration this and information provided by the doctors and scientists, French National Ethics Committee gave authorization to perform umbilical cord blood transplantation. In that case UCBT was considered to be an urgent life-saving treatment.
This UCBT lead to complete hematological reconstitution of the patient. Hematopoietic stem cells of his sister gave him a chance for a normal and healthy life. Over almost 30 years since first successful UCBT, umbilical cord blood becomes widely accepted as an alternative to the bone marrow, source of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) with UCB banks being established in many countries in order to collect and cryopreserve UCB for treatment of the patients.
Success of the treatment with bone marrow-derived HSCs is critically depends on the match of human leucocyte antigen (HLA) systems between the donor and recipient. Whereas, for the case of transplantation of UCB-derived hematopoietic stem cells, it was shown that partial mismatch in (HLA) systems between the donor and recipient is feasible.
However, due to the low number of cells available from the single UCB unit only limited number of adult patients meet critical cell dose threshold for UCBT of 2,5*107 nucleated cells/kg. Thus, umbilical cord blood transplantation is used to treat predominantly pediatric patients for whom perfectly matched unrelated donor of the bone marrow is not available
Soon after being established as a source of hematopoietic stem cells, umbilical cord blood attracted attention of medical scientists as potential source of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). These cells could migrate into damaged regions, modulate immune response to injury and promote tissue repair. It was suggested that umbilical cord blood derived MSCs could be used for the treatment of different diseases. However, potential clinical application of UCB-derived MSCs is restricted due to low number of these cells in umbilical cord blood. Also, their potential to differentiate is limited to the adipogenic, chondrgenic and osteogenic lineages.
To bypass these limitations fetal stem cells could be used instead of MSCs. Fetal stem cells that are intended to form different organs of the fetus during development could be used to modulate immune response and promote regeneration in corresponding organs of the patient. Scientists and doctors of Infinity Clinic developed therapeutic approaches for different diseases that are based on unique properties of fetal stem cells.
As it was in the case of pioneers in umbilical cord blood transplantations, after the years of scientific investigations, founders of the Infinity Clinic succeeded in establishing in Ukraine medical center focused on fetal stem cell treatment that is legal in this country. Due to passionate work of these people great expectations in terms of fetal stem cell-based treatment that were raised 15 years ago turned into impressive results of their patients.