Eczema Trial: Cord Blood A New Therapy?

Eczema Trial: Cord Blood A New Therapy?

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a common skin condition.  Crusty, dry and red patches on the skin which show signs of irritation are a typical symptom of eczema.  Atopic dermatitis accounts for 30% of all dermatological conditions seen in general practice – a number which is rising [1].

Many cases of eczema can be treated successfully with over-the-counter or prescription medicines.  The medicines often used to treat atopic dermatitis are emollient moisturisers and corticosteroids.  Emollient moisturisers prevent the skin drying while topical corticosteroids help to reduce inflammation [2].  Even though many cases of atopic dermatitis are treated sucessfully, there are some cases which are more problematic.  In more extreme cases of eczema, and where treatments do not help, the condition can be quite debilitating.  Cord blood may help patients with this moderate-to-severe type of atopic dermatitis.

Eczema Cord Blood Study Shows Promising Results

A small study has shown that cord blood stem cells could be an effective therapy for atopic dermatitis. There were 34 patients in the trial.  Participants were chosen at random to receive a low or high dose of mesenchymal stem cells.  The cells were sourced from umbilical cord blood and were given to participants via injection [3].

The Korean study, a collaboration between Seoul National University and Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital, showed promising results.  The Eczema Area and Severity Index, or EASI, score is used to determine the extent and severity of atopic dermatitis.  The study showed that at week 12 of the patients who received a high dose of cord blood stem cells, 55% showed a 50% reduction in the EASI score [4].

The senior author of the study, Dr. Tae-Yoon Kim, said “this study is a first-in-class study demonstrating that adults with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis responded to a treatment of stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood. The single treatment of stem cells in patients resulted in the significant and persistent improvement in disease symptoms throughout the follow-up period of 12 weeks” [4].

A cord blood treatment for atopic dermatitis will need more research before it may become available to the general public.  However, the results of the study will certainly offer hope to those who find current treatments ineffective.

Studies investigating the application of stem cells in more common conditions are increasing.  These studies may reveal more therapeutic uses for cord blood, consequently, making it increasingly precious.

[1] http://cks.nice.org.uk/eczema-atopic#!backgroundsub:2
[2] http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Eczema-(atopic)/Pages/Treatment.aspx
[3] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/stem.2401/abstract
[4] Wiley. “Stem cells from umbilical cord blood may help treat eczema.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 June 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160607080935.htm>.

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