To analyze the emerging global market for mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), it is important to define the cell type. Broadly defined, mesenchymal stem cells are multi-potent stem cells that can differentiate into a diverse range of cell types. More specifically, mesenchymal stem cells are non-hematopoietic stromal cells that are capable of differentiating into, and assisting in the repair of, tissues of both intra-mesenchymal and extra-mesenchymal lineages.
Exosomes have recently exploded in popularity, with companies developing exosome-based diagnostics, therapeutics, and cosmeceuticals. Although they were discovered more than 30 years ago, it was not until recently that the scientific community began to give credit to exosomes for a range of promising traits.
Exosomes are small vesicles ranging from 30-100nm in size that are found in nearly all eukaryotic fluids and facilitate a range of important cellular functions. Specifically, they transfer DNA, RNA, and proteins to other cells, thereby altering the function of the targeted cells.
Exosome History: A Recent Explosion of Interest
Ten years ago in 2006, there were only 76 articles published about exosomes (PubMed.gov: Date Range: Jan 1, 2006 to Dec 31, 2006). Five years ago in 2011, there were 271 articles published about exosomes (PubMed.gov: Date Range: Jan 1, 2011 to Dec 31, 2011).
Since the first stem cell transplant occurred more than 50 years ago (1957), there has been a nearly exponential increase in stem cell transplants, and in late 2012, the millionth stem cell transplant occurred, a landmark event in stem cell medicine.
Cord blood stem cells have distinct advantages over other sources, including that they are:
- More adaptable
- More pure
These traits result from cord blood stem cells being the earliest (non-controversial) stem cells that can be extracted from a living human, and therefore haven’t been exposed to viruses, chemicals, or pollutants in the environment that can alter cell function.
While bone marrow stem cells are the most commonly recognized type of stem cell used in transplant, cord blood stem cells are increasingly showing advantages over other stem cell sources, including reduced immune reactions (such as GvHD) and a greater flexibility for HLA-mismatched cord blood units to be used in transplant.
However, many expectant parents still do not fully understand the significance of cord blood storage or grasp the technical aspects that characterize it. This is also true of many investors who are evaluating opportunities for investing in the cord blood banking market.