A decade ago less than 1 percent of Americans were banking cord blood; today, that figure has grown to about 4 percent and is rising, Haller said. Cord blood is rich with cells that help regulate the immune system but until now has typically been used to restore a patients immune system after treatments for leukemia or lymphoma.
UF researchers identified children recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes whose families banked their umbilical cord blood at birth. Most were still producing a small amount of insulin. The researchers then gave seven patients ages 2 to 7 intravenous infusions of stem cells isolated from their own cord blood. (They have since treated an additional four children.) The patients were evaluated for the next two years to measure how much insulin they were making on their own and to assess blood sugar levels and the function of key immune system cells.
In the first six months, they required significantly less insulin -- on average 0.45 versus 0.69 units of insulin per kilogram per day -- and maintained better control of blood sugar levels than children of comparable age with type 1 diabetes who were randomly selected from the clinic population. The researchers also noted that the children who received cord blood infusions had higher levels of regulatory immune cells in their blood six months after the infusion, on average 9 percent of the total cell volume compared with 7.21 percent at the time of infusion.
This isnt a cure-all. We think that giving these cells is essentially providing some immunotherapy and downregulating the autoimmunity these patients have, Haller said. Realistically, we hope to protect whats left of their insulin-production for an extended period of time. We think the immune regulation hypothesis is more likely than the hypothesis that stem c
Contact: Melanie Fridl Ross
University of Florida