History of Stem Cells
In the mid 1800s, scientists understand that cells are the basic building blocks of the body and that these cells generate other cells. This was followed in the early 1900s by the realization that some cells give rise to blood cells. Eureka, the stem cell!
In the 1950s, a radiation fallout in France led researchers to wonder at the possibilities of allogeneic transplants. Several attempts were made; however, it was not until 1958 that Dr. Jean Dausset found the HLA antigens. The HLA system is important in correctly matching donor and recipient blood types.
With the discovery of the HLA system, more research occurred in the field on bone marrow. In 1968, the first unrelated bone marrow transplant was performed between two siblings; the recipient had an immunodeficiency named ï¿½bubble boy syndromeï¿½. Researchers discovered more about the HLA system; a child inherits three antigens, HLA-A, HLA-B and HLA-DR, from each parent. The total six antigens needed to be matched to prevent a serious immune response called graft vs. host disease. The first unrelated bone marrow transplant was conducted in 1973 on a five-year old child with severe immunodeficiency syndrome.
Cord blood quietly came on the stage in 1988 when a young boy suffering from Fanconiï¿½s anemia was treated with the first cord blood transplant. The first unrelated cord blood transplant took place in 1993 at Duke University.
Another exciting scientific finding came in 1999, when scientists first manipulated mouse cells to give rise to specialized cellsï¿½a process known as differentiation. The year 2001 saw an embryonic stem cell turn into a blood cell.
Nowadays, there are approximately 500 cord blood transplants performed every year. Science is continually on the verge of new and exciting discoveries concerning stem cells and cord blood. Stay tuned!