The first stem cell product based on umbilical cord blood cells has been approved for use by US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently. The product is named Hemacord and has been developed by the New York Blood Center, a non-profit organization of community-based blood centers that has been operating with blood and transfusion products since 1964 and with cord blood units for transplantation since 1996.
Hemacord is intended to be used as a hematopoietic stem cell transplant. It is recommended for the patients with hematopoietic disorders–those affecting blood forming functions of the body. It is indicated in cases of certain blood cancers, inherited disorders of immune and metabolic system, bone marrow failure, etc. The product can be used in children.
Cord blood is one of the sources of hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPCs) that can be used for transplantation, along with bone marrow and peripheral blood. Progenitor cells can give rise to a number of blood cell types. In this ability they resemble stem cells, though the number of cell types they can turn into is limited as they are more specialized compared with stem cells.
After infusion to a patient, hematopoietic progenitor cells migrate to the bone marrow and engraft there. Then their work starts which involves restoring the number and function of different blood cell types and immune function.
Since cord blood cell transplants can be rejected by the patient’s body, unless the transplant is autologous, potential patients should be warned that using Hemacord can lead to graft failure, Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD), engraftment syndrome, and infusion reactions–conditions that potentially can be fatal. Therefore, Hemacord application should ensure risk-benefit assessment and careful unit selection, as well as be monitored by a physician qualified for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.