Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg M.D.
When Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg began her career in the late 1970s as a clinician treating kids with blood disorders and cancers, no one thought much of cord blood. A lot has changed throughout her career, much in part thanks to her. Kurtzberg performed the first transplant of cord blood to a patient from an unrelated donor at Duke University in 1993, and established a public cord blood bank a few years later.
Recently, she’s started to research using cord blood in a new way — instead of treating children who have undergone radiation or chemotherapy, she’s given cord blood directly to patients through an infusion. Early studies have shown promising evidence that some cells in cord blood might help calm down inflammation in the brain and signal to other brain cells to make new connections, with the potential to treat children with brain injuries, cerebral palsy, and autism. These investigations are still in their early days Kurtzberg, cautions. “People should not count on any of the ongoing research to definitely pan out.” But she’s hopeful for the future. “We have encouraging early data.”
Dr. Evan Snyder M.D. Ph.D
As a pediatric neurologist and neuroscientist, Dr. Evan Snyder has been involved in stem cell research from the dawn of the field where he has been integral to the advancement of stem cell research. Notably, his early research identified the first brain or neural stem cells in humans.
Now, Snyder investigates induced pluripotent stem cells in animal models, with the goal of developing therapies for clinical applications.“Stem cell research is still a little bit of science fiction,” he says. ”Though not as distant as you might think.”
His research has also provided support for using cord tissue in conjunction with blood stem cells from cord blood in transplants. “The best transplants have both of these kinds of cells with them,” he says.
Dr. Pranela Rameshwar, Ph.D.
Dr. Pranela Rameshwar is intimately aware of the potentials of cord blood — she’s studied stem cells and cord blood at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School for over three decades.
While her current research centers on using mesenchymal stem cells for drug delivery, Rameshwar is committed to furthering stem cell education more broadly. She’s developed a certificate program in stem cell biology and encourages a healthy skepticism of the potential clinical applications of stem cells.
This article was originally published on