Engineering cord blood to improve engraftment after cord blood transplant
Umbilical cord blood transplant (CBT) has traditionally been associated with slower engraftment of neutrophils, delayed immune reconstitution and consequently higher risk of infections as compared with peripheral blood progenitor cell (PBPC) or bone marrow (BM) transplants. This is primarily due to low numbers of total nucleated cells (TNCs) and the naive nature of CB immune cells. The use of double unit CB transplant (DCBT) increases the total cell dose in the graft, but it still does not produce as rapid engraftment as seen with PBPC or even BM transplants. Herein, we discuss strategies to improve engraftment after CBT. We describe methods of (I) expansion of CB graft ex vivo to increase the total cell dose; and (II) enhancement of BM homing capability of CB progenitor cells; (III) ex vivo expansion of CB derived T cells for improving T cell function against viruses, tumors and protection from graft versus host disease (GVHD). With these novel approaches, engraftment after CBT is now reaching levels comparable to that of other graft types.