Umbilical Cord May Hold a Treatment for Eczema.

Umbilical Cord May Hold a Treatment for Eczema.

Jennie Lyon

Umbilical Cord Blood May Help Eczema in the Future.


You just never know what accidental discoveries science may turn up next. That’s certainly the case in a recent announcement that scientists may have accidentally found a treatment for both eczema and rheumatoid arthritis. The umbilical cord may just be the solution, specifically the blood of the umbilical cord.

Scientists made the discovery when they were originally researching treatment of a condition called skin graft versus host disease (GvHD) that affects certain people who undergo a stem cell transplant. As it turns out, GvHD, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis are all linked to inflammation and an immune response that doesn’t respond as it should.

In the case of GvHD, stem cell transplant can help to give someone a new immune system, however the GvHD condition is sometimes a side effect. During the stem cell transplant process the new immune system can possibly begin to attack the new host and the body can react with severe skin reactions which is, of course, less than ideal.

As it turns out, there are ingredients in umbilical cord blood that have properties that lower inflammation and suppress the immune system. For a long time, scientists didn't understand these ingredients. In researching GvHD, scientists were researching the proteins found in the umbilical cord blood. The proteins are called soluble NKG2D ligands. NKG2D ligands disables the cells that affect the immune system by fighting off what they respond to as being foreign to the body. These proteins can be used to disable similar killer cells in other parts of the body.

This discovery could eventually lead to the development of a cream containing cord blood proteins, which could ease the symptoms of eczema and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as GvHD. Because conditions like eczema and rheumatoid arthritis are so hard to manage, this could be a major breakthrough. The treatment might also be effective for patients suffering from blood cancer.

The study was published in the European Journal of Immunology. While more research is going to be needed before a cream can be developed, scientists are hoping to begin testing patients with this treatment in the next few years. We’ll be watching developments in this research as it becomes available.