Monday, January 30, 2012

A Life-Saving Option

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Written by: Tracy Brown

Banking your child’s cord blood could be the smartest thing you’ll ever do.

A slew of thoughts ran through my mind when I found out I was expecting my first little bundle. Is it a boy or a girl? What color should I paint the nursery? Will he or she look like me? Act like my husband? Which stroller should I add to my registry? But as my pregnancy progressed, the trivial thoughts took a backseat to the truly important decisions that would affect the future health of my son. (It’s a boy!) When first asked how I felt about banking my little guy’s cord blood, I wasn’t even able to give an answer. I hadn’t done my research and didn’t know all the facts. Since then, I’ve learned everything I could about the process from medical professionals, cord blood banks and families who saved their children’s cord blood, so I’m able to make an informed and deliberate decision.

The what
To be honest, initially I wasn’t quite sure what cord blood was. Sure, it sounded obvious—blood that comes from the baby’s umbilical cord—but as it turns out, there’s a little more to it. Banking facility Cord Blood Registry (CBR) clarifies the facts on its website: “Cord blood is the blood that remains in your baby’s umbilical cord after the cord has been cut. It is a rich source of unique stem cells that can be used in medical treatments.” In other words, the umbilical cord, which is responsible for carrying nutrients and oxygen to the baby while in utero, is also home to a high number of stem cells. To delve further into my stem cell education, I turned to Cryocell, a cord blood bank that prides itself on innovative approaches and applications of newly developed stem cells. According to its site, stem cells are “special cells normally found in bone marrow. They are responsible for producing all of the mature cells in our blood and immune system.” And they don’t stop there. They also form the white cells that fight infection, the red cells that carry oxygen, and the platelets that promote clotting. Pretty impressive, huh? That’s not all for these little fellas either. Stem cells continuously make copies of themselves and are able to produce every other kind of blood cell. If you were to transplant these cells into a compatible person’s body, they would transform into whatever type of cell that body needs—they’re completely adaptable. Once researchers realized the potential benefits of the stem cells in cord blood, cord blood banks were created. These storage centers allow families to harness the power of life-saving blood and stem cells in case they need to call on it in the future.

The why
Now that I understood the basics of cord blood, I wanted to investigate the reasons for storing it. In doing so, I came across Quentin Murray’s story. When Quentin was 4 years old, he was diagnosed with a form of lymphoblastic leukemia that left him with less than a 30 percent chance of survival. With the help of Quentin’s mother, who was pregnant with Quentin’s sister, and the guidance of his doctor, Lolie Yu, MD, MPH, a pediatric oncologist, transplant specialist and professor of pediatrics at Lousiana State University’s Health Center, the family was able to store the new baby’s placental and cord blood with LifebankUSA. The cord blood was a match for Quentin, and he was able to undergo a transplant using stem cells from both the placenta and umbilical cord. Murray’s leukemia has been in continuous and complete remission since his transplant, and he was deemed fully cured on March 28, 2010, the two-year anniversary of his transplant. Quentin’s story isn’t unique. While talking with blood bank ViaCord, I learned the story of Andy Treviño. Ten years ago, Andrés and Paulina Treviño embarked on a desperate quest to save their 2-year-old son Andy, who was dying from a rare genetic disorder called primary immune deficiency. He needed a transplant of healthy stem cells to replace defective cells in order to survive. After exhausting their options searching for a compatible donor in the public registry for more than two years, the family decided to have another child (they had always planned on doing so) whose umbilical cord blood stem cells could save Andy. After three years and five IVF cycles, Sofia was born. Her cord blood stem cells were transplanted into her brother via blood transfusion, replacing his faulty immune system and eventually saving his life. Today, Andy, 12, and Sofia, 7, are both healthy, active children.

The how
With all the medical advancements, it was clear to me that cord blood banking is a valuable investment, but I still didn’t know the details of how it was collected and stored. Would it hurt? Was it a lengthy process? Upon looking into it, I was pleased to find it was painless and wouldn’t bother my son or me at all. First, the umbilical cord is clamped; then blood from it and the placenta are drawn and transferred via needle into a sterile bag. The whole process takes only about five minutes. Once the cord blood is collected, it’s picked up by a courier and transported to the storage facility (either public or private) where it is processed and frozen.

The where
The advancements in regenerative medicine were promising and the collection process seemed easy enough, but now I needed to make some inquiries regarding public versus private facilities, so if that I decided to bank my baby’s cord blood, I knew which storage option was best for us.

Private. The decision to store at a private bank comes with the benefit that the blood “belongs to the family,” explains Morey Kraus, chief scientific officer at ViaCord, and therefore can be used at the family’s discretion. “If a valid medical professional requests it for the family,” Kraus says, “we have it shipped.” An important part of the success of private blood banking has to do with human leukocyte antigens (HLA) found in the cord blood. “HLA antigens are found on most cells of the body and play an integral role in the body’s recognition of self and non-self,” says Nancy L. Sapanara, MD, JD, FCAP, medical director of Lifebank USA. “Because HLA antigens can recognize non-self, or foreign, cells in the body, they are an important part of the immune system.” Sapanara says that the unfortunate part comes when the antigens can’t tell the difference between a bad foreign cell, such as an infectious bacteria, and a good foreign cell, such as those used in stem cell transplants. “Doctors try to find donor stem cells with the same HLA antigens as the recipient so that the cells are not rejected by the recipient,” she explains. “Oftentimes, the closer the HLA match between donor and recipient, the better the outcome.” Everybody has two copies of the chromosome that codes for HLA—one from each parent—so there are a total of four possible HLA combinations in the child. This means there is a 25 percent chance that a child’s banked cord blood will be an exact match for his sibling, at least a 50 percent chance for his parent, and a 100 percent match for the child himself. Should you decide to bank privately, you will have access to the cord blood that is most likely to be a good match for a close blood relative.

Public. “Mothers delivering full-term, healthy, single babies can elect to donate their baby’s cord blood to a public bank,” explains Joanne Kurtzberg, MD, director of Carolinas Cord Blood Bank at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. “The donation process is risk-free to both mom and baby and is performed at no cost to the mother or her family.” After the baby is delivered and the cord blood collected, a sample of mom’s blood is taken to screen for infections that can be transmitted through the blood. Mom also has to complete a medical history questionnaire for herself and her baby’s family, as well as sign a donor consent form. The size of the collection and the results of the tests can affect whether the cord blood is used. “After technical details about the cord blood unit are reviewed and cleared, the details about the unit are listed on the ‘Be the Match’ unrelated donor registry of the National Marrow Donor Program,” Kurtzberg explains. “From there, patients in need of a donor for transplant can have a search performed to locate their best matching donor.” Although cord blood was once considered nothing more than medical waste, Kurtzberg notes, “We know now that a cord blood unit can save a life. Donating cord blood gives a patient new hope.”

The cost
Whether you choose to bank with a private company or a federally funded public bank, there will be a fee involved. To see what options my family’s budget might allow, I looked into the average cost of banking with both private and public centers. With a private bank, you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 for the initial collection fee, $150 for transport, an additional doctor’s fee (which usually starts around $100), and $125 to $300 for annual storage. With a public bank, you can expect to pay your doctor’s collection fee, which typically runs about $100.

The future
Still craving more information, I spoke with Kraus, who offered insight into current advancements in the field: “Just a decade or so ago, there were only a few diseases that could be treated with cord blood, now there are nearly 80 treatable diseases.” Advancements in technology are leading to the development of new procedures. “We are now able to separate the cord blood tissue and take more stem cells out,” Kraus explains. These cord tissue stem cells contain regenerative properties and have the potential to treat many disorders including Parkinson’s disease and sports injuries. Kraus adds, “We are currently in phase II of clinical trials to use stem cells to treat cerebral palsy and type 1 diabetes.” Plus, the best part of the new research, he notes, is that diseases previously treated with chemo-therapy are showing great response to stem cells without the use of radiation. ViaCord estimates that one in 217 people may need a stem cell transplant by the age of 70 using stem cells from umbilical cords or bone marrow. As of now, it’s the family members that gain an increased chance of survival if they receive stem cells from a family member, but with the new regenerative medicine and continual improvements in research, the ability for a baby to benefit from his own cord blood in the future is a strong possibility.

Whether you decide to bank your child’s cord blood is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. You have only one chance to save the cord blood and not a big window of time in which to do it. I spent a great deal of time considering my family’s options, and I encourage you to do the same—the sooner, the better! Ask questions of your doctors and midwives, call public and private banks to inquire about the process, and take a good look at your family’s health history. After researching to the best of your ability and exhausting your resources, you will no doubt know the right answer for you and your baby.

The Title says it ALL. "BANKING YOUR CHILD'S CORD BLOOD COULD BE THE SMARTEST THING YOU EVER DO." Call it a type of insurance policy, call it looking into the future, call it an investment into your child's future health. No matter how you say it, cord blood banking is turning out to be a LIFE-SAVER for thousands of sick people every year and the number of lives saved by cord blood stem cells are rising every year. The industry grows by leaps and bounds and the once thought impossible for certain treatments and therapies are turning into realities. If you or someone you know are expecting a child, do yourself and them a favor and become educated about the life-saving potential cord blood banking................MrCordBlood

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Stem Cell Salvation?

OTL - Stem Cell Salvation?. Watch more top selected videos about: Sports, Major League Baseball

With the so-called "Steroid Era" still fresh in the minds of many sports fans, any new product or treatment is even more scrutinized than ever before. We now are seeing athletes from all professional sports turning to stem-cell therapies to help heal their bodies or injuries in hopes of regaining their ability to compete in the sport they love. And is their anything wrong with using this new technology? I SAY ABSOLUTELY NOT. Why the United States has limited and still imposes limitations on letting the burgeoning adult-stem cell industry blossom into it's full potential is a slap in the face to the citizens of our great nation. Proven and documented success has been achieved using adult stem cells from such parts of the body as umbilical cord blood stem cells, placental stem cells, adipose tissues, even dental pulp is being stored and researched as a source. Over 70+ diseases are being treated currently using cord blood stem cells with the potential future applications being without boundaries in my opinion. Why has the USA allowed itself to fall behind the rest of the world in realizing the true potential adult stem cells can harness? One British researcher eloquently said stem cells "could be the Holy Grail" of future medicine. Yet still families with sick loved ones are forced to travel overseas at great expense to get the treatments that could not only heal or cure them but possibly SAVE their lives. Do you Recognize any of the following names: Tiger Woods, Bartolo Colon, Peyton Manning, Kobe Bryant, Terrell Owens??? They all have sought out some form of stem cell based therapies to rehabilitate injuries.

I do not write this in a politically motivated manner. My goal is to only create awareness and provide education to everyone on the true value that adult stem cells possess. These so-called "master cells" are creating a medical revolution in modern medicine and we have just scratched the surface. I hope all my readers can look past the politics and see the true message; Saving Stem Cells SAVE Lives!!!.......MrCordBlood

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Stem Cells Deliver Therapy for Huntingtons

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UC DAVIS (US) — A new therapy uses stem cells to deliver therapy that specifically targets the genetic abnormality found in Huntington’s disease

A hereditary brain disorder that causes uncontrolled movement, dementia, and death, Huntington’s disease can be managed with medications, but currently there are no treatments for the physical, mental, and behavioral decline of its victims.

“For the first time, we have been able to successfully deliver inhibitory RNA sequences from stem cells directly into neurons, significantly decreasing the synthesis of the abnormal huntingtin protein,” says Jan A. Nolta, principal investigator of the study and director of the stem cell program and the Institute for Regenerative Cures at the University of California, Davis.

As reported online in the journal Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, Nolta and other experts think the best chance to halt the disease’s progression will be to reduce or eliminate the mutant huntingtin (htt) protein found in the neurons of those with the disease. RNA interference (RNAi) technology has been shown to be highly effective at reducing htt protein levels and reversing disease symptoms in mouse models.

“Our team has made a breakthrough that gives families affected by this disease hope that genetic therapy may one day become a reality.”

“Our challenge with RNA interference technology is to figure out how to deliver it into the human brain in a sustained, safe, and effective manner,” says Nolta, whose lab recently received funding from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to develop an RNAi delivery system for Huntington’s disease. “We’re exploring how to use human stem cells to create RNAi production factories within the brain.”

Huntington’s disease affects more than a quarter of a million Americans. The disorder can be passed down through families even if only one parent has the abnormal huntingtin gene.

The disease is caused by a mutation in the gene, which is comprised of an abnormally repeating building block of DNA that appears on the fourth chromosome. While the building block pattern normally repeats up to 28 times on the chromosome, too many repeats cause an abnormal form of protein—known as the huntingtin protein—to be made.

The huntingtin protein accumulates in the brain, causing the disease’s devastating progression. Individuals usually develop symptoms in middle age if there are more than 35 repeats. A more rare form of the disease occurs in youth when the abnormal DNA pattern repeats many more times.

The new research team shows for the first time that inhibitory RNA sequences can be transferred directly from donor cells into target cells to greatly reduce unwanted protein synthesis from the mutant gene. To transfer the inhibitory RNA sequences into their targets, Nolta’s team genetically engineered mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which were derived from the bone marrow of unaffected human donors.

Over the past two decades, Nolta and her colleagues have shown MSCs to be safe and effective vehicles to deliver enzymes and proteins to other cells. Finding that MSCs can also transfer RNA molecules directly from cell to cell, in amounts sufficient to reduce levels of a mutant protein by over 50 percent in the target cells, is a discovery that has never been reported before and offers great promise for a variety of disorders.

“Not only is finding new treatments for Huntington’s disease a worthwhile pursuit on its own, but the lessons we are learning are applicable to developing new therapies for other genetic disorders that involve excessive protein development and the need to reduce it,” Nolta says.

“We have high hopes that these techniques may also be utilized in the fight against some forms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) as well as Parkinson’s and other conditions.”

Researchers from the University of Texas and the Washington University in St. Louis contributed to the study that was funded by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Team KJ.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cord Blood Stem Cell Transplant Hopes Lifted

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A technique which may eventually remove the need for matched bone marrow transplants has been used in humans for the first time.

It is hoped that "master cells" taken from umbilical cords could be used on any patient without rejection.

The latest advance, published in the journal Nature Medicine, greatly multiplies the tiny number of cells from the cord ready for a transplant.

UK charity Leukaemia Research said this could be the "holy grail" for doctors.

Aggressive treatment

The current system of bone marrow transplantation helps patients who have diseases, such as leukaemia, which affect the stem cells in their bone marrow where new blood cells are grown.

The holy grail is to have an "off the peg" source of unlimited numbers of "neutral" stem cells
Dr David Grant
Leukaemia Research

Their own bone marrow cells are killed off by aggressive treatment and cells from a matched donor are introduced in their place.

However, a matching donor cannot always be found, despite extensive donor registries held by organisations such as the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust and, even with a carefully matched donor, there is still a risk that the patient's body will reject the new cells.

Cells extracted from umbilical cords could overcome these problems - they do not have the characteristics which would normally trigger immune rejection, so it is likely that cells from a single baby's cord could be used in any patient, without the need for matching.

However, there is one big disadvantage - there are not enough cells in a single cord to meet the needs of an adult patient.

Scientists have been looking for ways to either combine the cells from more than one baby, or to "expand" the cell numbers in the laboratory.

The second of these options is far from straightforward - simply allowing the stem cells to divide and increase in the laboratory means that many of the resulting extra cells will be simple blood cells, which do not have the ability to produce new cells themselves.

Quick to work

Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle believe they may have found a way.

They manipulated a "signalling pathway" in the stem cells to trigger an increase in numbers without losing their stem cell status.

After success in laboratory animals, these cells were used in human patients, and the researchers found that they were accepted by the body more quickly and contributed more to the rebuilding of functioning bone marrow than "non-expanded" cord blood transplants.

Dr David Grant, Scientific Director of charity Leukaemia Research said: "The holy grail is to have an 'off the peg' source of unlimited numbers of 'neutral' stem cells which can be given to any patient safe in the knowledge that they will not cause the very difficult 'graft versus host' problems that lead to rejection and often the death of the patient.

"This is a promising development towards this because the concern has been that once stem cells start 'growing' they lose their stem cell properties and progress to ordinary blood cells with a very limited lifespan."

Henny Braund, chief executive of The Anthony Nolan Trust, said the potential for umbilical cord blood was "huge", and that the charity had already imported well over 250 units of umbilical cord blood.

"Sadly in the UK, despite our scientific expertise, umbilical cord blood is still very much an untapped resource and we are only able to collect and store a tiny amount of the cords we need.

"We really need a properly resourced UK cord blood collection programme.

"Further investment is crucial if we are to capitalise on this amazing resource and save more lives."

Doctors say that stem cells could be "THE HOLY GRAIL' for medicine. With every passing day I believe more and more that they are CORRECT.............MrCordBlood

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cord Blood America Reports that Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells Are Now Being Used in Experimental Effort to Treat Type 1 Diabetes

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LAS VEGAS, Jan. 25, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Cord Blood America, Inc. ( (OTC Bulletin Board: CBAI), the umbilical cord blood stem cell preservation companyfocused on bringing the life saving potential of stem cells to families nationwide and internationally, said today reports that umbilical cord blood stem cells have been successfully used to treat individuals with type 1 diabetes, highlighting the importance of storing stem cells at birth.

According to reports in Medical News Today and USA Today, stem cells from cord blood have been used to "reeducate" the immune system T cells of people with type 1 diabetes so their pancreas started producing insulin again, reducing the amount of insulin they needed to inject. The treatment was even successful with long-standing diabetics who were believed to have no insulin-producing ability.

The scientists involved in the experiment said the treatment could potentially be useful in other autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body's immune system cells attack the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. This means the cells don't produce enough insulin, and the lost insulin has to be replaced through injections for the patient to survive.

Also recently in the news, scientists at the University of Central Florida announced they have transformed stem cells from umbilical cords into other types of cells, which could be key in therapies for spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis and other nervous system diseases.

"Sometimes we forget, as we go about our daily activities, just how revolutionary is the storage and use of umbilical cord blood stem cells for medical treatment. We will continue to monitor the medical literature and keep our investors up-to-date on the amazing progress of these stem cells, which have already been used to treat or cure more than 70 diseases," said Matthew Schissler, co-founder and CEO. "Kalorama Information, a healthcare market research firm, estimates the markets for stem cell technologies soon could top $1 billion It also states that umbilical cord blood is without controversy and that many people support the notion of routinely collecting cord blood at birth."

About Cord Blood America
Cord Blood America is the parent company of CorCell, which facilitates umbilical cord blood stem cell preservation for expectant parents and their children. Its mission is to be the most respected stem cell preservation company in the industry. Collected through a safe and non-invasive process, cord blood stem cells offer a powerful and potentially life-saving resource for treating a growing number of ailments, including cancer, leukemia, blood, and immune disorders. To find out more about Cord Blood America, Inc., visit our website at For investor information, visit

How many people around the world suffer from Diabetes? This is one of the most prevalent diseases that plagues our society and will kill thousands every year. Now they have successfully treated Type 1 Diabetes using umbilical cord blood stem cells stored at birth. This is truly GROUNDBREAKING and just reinforces how important a decision to store your baby's cord blood can be..............MrCordBlood

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cord Blood Stem Cells May Restore Hearing

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HOUSTON, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers are undergoing a phase I safety study using a child's umbilical cord blood stem cells to try to restore hearing loss.

Dr. James Baumgartner, sponsor of the study and guest research collaborator at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Medical School, said the yearlong study will follow 10 children, ages 6 weeks to 18 months, who have sustained post-birth hearing loss. Children who are deaf as a result of a genetic anomaly or syndrome are not eligible for the test.

"Children only have 18 months to acquire language skills and, if a child does not hear well, they will not acquire the language skills to speak normally," Baumgartner said in a statement.

The children will undergo a series of blood tests, hearing and speech tests and magnetic resonance imaging that will view the tracts that send signals from the inner ear to the brain.

Researchers will obtain and process the patients' stored cord blood for treatment and the stem cells will be given to the patients via IV infusion and patients will be observed for several hours in the hospital.

Patients will return to the hospital to repeat all tests except the MRI at one month and one year, and all tests

with an MRI at six months.

"This study is exciting because it might offer a non-surgical option for some children with profound hearing loss," Baumgartner said. "More importantly, this is the first treatment with the potential to restore normal hearing."

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.

Another amazing breakthrough happening courtesy of cord blood stem cells............MrCordBlood

Saturday, January 21, 2012

"Looking Into the Future"

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Learn more about the life-saving potential cord blood banking can offer to your family's future medical well-being. Saving Baby's Cord Blood Saves Lives!!!


Stem Cell Drive at Aberdeen to Honour 22-year old Leukemia Patient

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Stem cell drive at Aberdeen to honour 22-year-old leukemia patient

Her family thought it was the flu, except the symptoms wouldn’t go away. At age nine, Judy Lam was sent for blood tests and the diagnosis was clear: she had leukemia.

“The moment I heard that I had leukemia, I was very scared,” she wrote in an online post. “The more I thought about it, the more scared I became.”

She recuperated, found God and no longer feared for her life. Four years later, leukemia came back, prompting another successful battle against the disease. But in November 2011, leukemia returned to the now 22-year-old’s body and Lam has again found herself fighting for her life.

On Saturday, OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Networkof the Canadian Blood Services will partner with other community groups in Lam’s honour to sign up potential donors to the stem cell network. The Christian Mission of Canada and OtherHalf Chinese Stem Cell Initiative are also behind the drive, which takes place at Aberdeen Centre.

Like other sufferers of blood cancers, Lam needs a stem cell transplant. She is unable to find a close match within her family and is desperate to find a donor.

Lam wasn’t able to be interviewed, but in an online video, she offers an appeal in Chinese for potential donors to register at Saturday’s event.

Stem cells are the building blocks of blood. Those who register as potential donors at Saturday’s event will be given a cheek swab. Genetic information will be processed and entered into a database. Each time a patient is looking for a stem cell match, the database is searched for potential donors.

“If someone is a leukemia patient or has lymphoma, often times their last chance of hope of beating that illness is a stem cell transplant,” said Olga Pazukha, spokesperson for OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network.

According to organizers, there’s an immediate need for young men ages 17 to 35 to join the stem cell network, particularly those of ethnicities such as Chinese.

Pazukha said OneMatch wants to ensure the database is diverse enough to match the growing ethnic diversity in Canada. She noted building awareness is key in reaching out to ethnic communities.

“The difficulty maybe lies in making sure to connect with the communities in a way that resonates with them,” she said. “It’s making sure that we reach the elders in the community or reach the younger generation in the community...”

Saturday’s event, which is timed to coincide with Chinese New Year celebrations, takes place at Aberdeen Centre mall, 4151 Hazelbridge Way, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. The mall held a similar event last year.

A drive will also be held in Burnaby the same day at the CCM Centre in Burnaby Crystal Mall, 4500 Kingsway, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

People already registered with OneMatch needn’t register again.

What are stem cells?

•Stem cells are the building blocks of blood.

•Patients who have a disease that inhibits their ability to produce these cells will need a transplant of healthy stem cells from a donor.

•There are two stem cells that donors can provide: from bone marrow and from circulating blood. A third stem cell can be harvested from umbilical cord blood after a baby is born.

•By donating stem cells, donors can give a patient a second chance at life.

New Mothers Save Lives by Giving Precious Cord Blood

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Madelaine Burke
Transplant: former leukaemia patient Madelaine Burke with brother Sebastian

New mothers save lives by giving precious cord blood

Sophie Goodchild, Health and Social Affairs Correspondent
20 Jan 2012

More than 100 mothers at a London hospital have donated umbilical cord blood to save lives.
All gave birth at University College Hospital which today officially launched its donation centre.

Since the NHS unit opened six weeks ago, nearly a third of women given the option to donate - 140 - have done so, potentially saving as many patients.

Cord blood, which remains in the placenta and umbilical cord after birth, is rich in stem cells that can help patients whose bone marrow is not working, including cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

The UCH unit operates 16 hours a day, five days a week. It is one of six UK collection sites managed by NHS Blood and Transplant, including St George's in Tooting and Northwick Park in north London.

Rachael Hough, a consultant haematologist at UCH, said the system of banks helped patients needing life-saving cord blood transplants to receive treatment more quickly. "The unit here will make a significant contribution to the national cord blood bank.

"These banks offer real hope to patients with life-threatening cancers who would otherwise have no alternative treatments available." University student Madelaine Burke, 19, from Northolt is among those who have benefited. She was treated for an acute form of leukaemia with a cord blood transplant four years ago at UCH, with the blood in those days having to be brought in from another hospital.

Today Ms Burke said: "There is no doubt my transplant was life-saving. But a lot of mothers don't realise that an umbilical cord can be so precious. I would ask more to donate."

The cord blood banks are in areas which serve ethnically diverse communities, in the hope that more donations will come from black and ethnic minorities who have to wait longer to find a matched donor.

Expectant mothers register their interest as potential donors during their pregnancy and provide consent in advance for collection, testing and use of the cord blood.

Lynda Hamlyn, chief executive of NHS Blood and Transplant, said: "I'm delighted the facility at UCH has proved to be an immediate success and we will be working hard to increase the number of collections.

"We have recently moved to collecting cords 24 hours a day, seven days a week at four of the six collection facilities. This increases the opportunity for mothers to donate."

Great article out of the UK about mothers donating their baby's umbilical cord blood to help save lives of those who need it most....................MrCordBlood

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A first: Brain support cells from umbilical cord stem cells

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ORLANDO, Jan. 17, 2012 -- For the first time ever, stem cells from umbilical cords have been converted into other types of cells, which may eventually lead to new treatment options for spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis, among other nervous system diseases.

"This is the first time this has been done with non-embryonic stem cells," says James Hickman, a University of Central Florida bioengineer and leader of the research group, whose accomplishment is described in the Jan. 18 issue of the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience.

"We're very excited about where this could lead because it overcomes many of the obstacles present with embryonic stem cells."

Stem cells from umbilical cords do not pose an ethical dilemma because the cells come from a source that would otherwise be discarded. Another major benefit is that umbilical cells generally have not been found to cause immune reactions, which would simplify their potential use in medical treatments.

The pharmaceutical company Geron, based in Menlo Park, Calif., developed a treatment for spinal cord repair based on embryonic stem cells, but it took the company 18 months to get approval from the FDA for human trials due in large part to the ethical and public concerns tied to human embryonic stem cell research. This and other problems recently led to the company shutting down its embryonic stem cell division, highlighting the need for other alternatives.

Sensitive Cells

The main challenge in working with stem cells is figuring out the chemical or other triggers that will convince them to convert into a desired cell type. When the new paper's lead author, Hedvika Davis, a postdoctoral researcher in Hickman's lab, set out to transform umbilical stem cells into oligodendrocytes--critical structural cells that insulate nerves in the brain and spinal cord--she looked for clues from past research.

Davis learned that other research groups had found components on oligodendrocytes that bind with the hormone norephinephrine, suggesting the cells normally interact with this chemical and that it might be one of the factors that stimulates their production. So, she decided this would be a good starting point.

In early tests, she found that norepinephrine, along with other stem cell growth promoters, caused the umbilical stem cells to convert, or differentiate, into oligodendrocytes. However, that conversion only went so far. The cells grew but then stopped short of reaching a level similar to what's found in the human nervous system.

Davis decided that, in addition to chemistry, the physical environment might be critical.

To more closely approximate the physical restrictions cells face in the body, Davis set up a more confined, three-dimensional environment, growing cells on top of a microscope slide, but with a glass slide above them. Only after making this change, and while still providing the norephinphrine and other chemicals, would the cells fully mature into oligodendrocytes.

"We realized that the stem cells are very sensitive to environmental conditions," Davis said.

Medical Potential

This growth of oligodendrocytes, while crucial, is only a first step to potential medical treatments. There are two main options the group hopes to pursue through further research. The first is that the cells could be injected into the body at the point of a spinal cord injury to promote repair.

Another intriguing possibility for the Hickman team's work relates to multiple sclerosis and similar conditions. "Multiple sclerosis is one of the holy grails for this kind of research," said Hickman, whose group is collaborating with Stephen Lambert at UCF's medical school, another of the paper's authors, to explore biomedical possibilities.

Oligodendrocytes produce myelin, which insulates nerve cells, making it possible for them to conduct the electrical signals that guide movement and other functions. Loss of myelin leads to multiple sclerosis and other related conditions such as diabetic neuropathy.

The injection of new, healthy oligodendrocytes might improve the condition of patients suffering from such diseases. The teams are also hoping to develop the techniques needed to grow oligodendrocytes in the lab to use as a model system both for better understanding the loss and restoration of myelin and for testing potential new treatments.

"We want to do both," Hickman said. "We want to use a model system to understand what's going on and also to look for possible therapies to repair some of the damage, and we think there is great potential in both directions."

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