Cord blood is the optimal graft source for the treatment of pediatric patients with lysosomal storage diseases: clinical outcomes and future directions.

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Initially used as an alternative hematopoietic stem cell source for patients without a human leukocyte antigen-matched bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell donor, unrelated cord blood (UCB) is now the preferred donor source when hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is used to treat patients with lysosomal storage disorders (LSD). Without transplantation, these patients have serious progressive multi-system deterioration and premature death. UCB transplantation favorably alters the natural history of these diseases and prolongs survival. It primarily works through cellular enzyme replacement by healthy engrafted donor cells providing a continuous endogenous supply of enzyme throughout the body and, thorough engraftment of donor-derived microgial cells, in the central nervous system. HSCT in LSD, the majority performed in patients with mucopolysaccharidoses and leukodystrophies, is associated with remarkably high rates of engraftment and survival. Importantly, recipients of UCB, as compared with other donor sources, more often achieve full-donor chimerism and normalization of enzyme levels, which has been associated with superior long-term clinical prognosis. Additionally, UCB units are readily available, reducing time to transplantation and thereby providing access to transplant at young ages, another highly important predictor for long-term neuro-developmental function. For these reasons, UCB grafts are nowadays considered to be the optimal graft source for HSCT in patients with LSD.





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Aldenhoven, Mieke, and Joanne Kurtzberg (2015). Cord blood is the optimal graft source for the treatment of pediatric patients with lysosomal storage diseases: clinical outcomes and future directions. Cytotherapy, 17(6). pp. 765–774. 10.1016/j.jcyt.2015.03.609 Retrieved from

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Joanne Kurtzberg

Jerome S. Harris Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics

Dr. Kurtzberg is an internationally renowned expert in pediatric hematology/oncology, pediatric blood and marrow transplantation, umbilical cord blood banking and transplantation, and novel applications of cord blood and birthing tissues in the emerging fields of cellular therapies and regenerative medicine.   Dr. Kurtzberg serves as the Director of the Marcus Center for Cellular Cures (MC3), Director of the Pediatric Transplant and Cellular Therapy Program, Director of the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank, and Co-Director of the Stem Cell Transplant Laboratory at Duke University.  The Carolinas Cord Blood Bank is an FDA licensed public cord blood bank distributing unrelated cord blood units for donors for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) through the CW Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program.  The Robertson GMP Cell Manufacturing Laboratory supports manufacturing of RETHYMIC (BLA, Enzyvant, 2021), allogeneic cord tissue derived and bone marrow derived mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), and DUOC, a microglial/macrophage cell derived from cord blood.

Dr. Kurtzberg’s research in MC3 focuses on translational studies from bench to bedside, seeking to develop transformative clinical therapies using cells, tissues, molecules, genes, and biomaterials to treat diseases and injuries that currently lack effective treatments. Recent areas of investigation in MC3 include clinical trials investigating the safety and efficacy of autologous and allogeneic cord blood in children with neonatal brain injury – hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), cerebral palsy (CP), and autism. Clinical trials testing allogeneic cord blood are also being conducted in adults with acute ischemic stroke. Clinical trials optimizing manufacturing and testing the safety and efficacy of cord tissue MSCs in children with autism, CP and HIE and adults with COVID-lung disease are underway. DUOC, given intrathecally, is under study in children with leukodystrophies and adults with primary progressive multiple sclerosis.

In the past, Dr. Kurtzberg has developed novel chemotherapeutic drugs for acute leukemias, assays enumerating ALDH bright cells to predict cord blood unit potency, methods of cord blood expansion, potency assays for targeted cell and tissue based therapies. Dr. Kurtzberg currently holds several INDs for investigational clinical trials from the FDA.  She has also trained numerous medical students, residents, clinical and post-doctoral fellows over the course of her career.

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