Jason Mendler, MD
It seems appropriate that while we sit less than 60 miles from the Kennedy Space Center, there will be a discussion about umbilical cord blood transplantation (UCBT). Like space travel, prior to its actual occurrence, the use of cells derived from human umbilical cord blood to reconstitute an adult’s hematopoietic system must have seemed far-fetched. While it was a remarkable accomplishment to get man into space, it was similarly a remarkable accomplishment when, 22 years ago, the first UBCT was performed in a child with Fanconi anemia. That transplant was performed by Dr. Eliane Gluckman, the first speaker in today’s Presidential Symposium scheduled for 9:45 a.m. in Hall D. Of note, that child is now a healthy adult, with blood fully chimeric for her HLA-matched sibling’s cells. Since that time, UCBT has been tested in a variety of transplant settings in both children and adults, and many practical advantages have been recognized for stem cells derived from cord blood relative to other sources. In today’s symposium, “Innovations and the Future of Umbilical Cord Blood Transplantation,” the present status of cord blood transplantation and future directions will be discussed.
ASH President Dr. Hal Broxmeyer, who was one of the key investigators in the early development of UCBT, will chair this symposium. Through his work systematically analyzing the number of hematopoietic cell progenitors in cord blood, he discovered that there were enough hematopoietic progenitors/stem cells for clinical use, paving the way for the first attempts to use these cells in patients.
Dr. Eliane Gluckman of Hôpital Saint-Louis in Paris will kick off the symposium by discussing the current status of allogeneic UCBT, focusing on transplantation of single cord blood units. She will be followed by Dr. John Wagner of the University of Minnesota who will focus on potential strategies to improve hematopoietic engraftment and immune reconstitution in UCBT. Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg of Duke University will close the session with a discussion of lessons learned from the use of cord blood transplantation in the treatment of inherited metabolic disease. She will discuss how these lessons have been extended into the use of cord blood in tissue repair and regeneration, focusing on genetic and acquired brain injuries.
Attendees will develop a better understanding of where the field of cord blood transplantation is and where we might expect the field to be in the near and distant future. According the ASH Preliminary Program, attendees are asked to “be prepared for realistic and potentially futuristic thoughts” regarding the future of UCBT and the innovations necessary to get there. For the prepared among you, fasten your seatbelts. The countdown to UCBTs of the future has officially begun.
Dr. Mendler indicated no relevant conflicts of interest.