Adriana was born in Italy in 2009 after an in vitro fertilisation and her parents were finally achieving the dream of their lives. Everything appeared to be fine with the pregnancy until the last moment when the mother started to feel contractions and ran to the clinic. She had forgotten to bring the kit for storing cord blood stem cells, but luckily Francesco from our partner SmartBank in Italy reached them at the clinic right on time.
The clinical status of Adriana before birth kept getting worse and worse. She was suffering and the gynaecologist was busy with another delivery. It took a while before a C-section was performed. Later, Adriana was diagnosed with a cerebral lesion caused by hypoxia at birth. Hypoxia is a medical term for when a region of the body does not get adequate oxygen supply.
Adriana’s symptoms of cerebral palsy were not evident at the beginning and it took a while before her parents decided to seek therapy. They began seeing neurologists in Italy. Again and again, they asked the neurologists if the stem cells in Adriana’s cord blood might have therapeutic potential for her brain lesion, but all of the neurologists dismissed the cord blood stem cells as useless. Finally, three years after Adriana’s birth, her parents called back SmartBank.
SmartBank’s Scientific Director Irene Martini, immediately suggested that the parents should get in touch with Duke Medical Center in North Carolina USA, where a clinical trial was enrolling children from all over the world for therapy of brain injury with their own cord blood stem cells.
Adriana’s stem cells were identified in the SmartBank storage facility at here at Biovault. We then sent the cord blood unit to Duke Medical Center for further testing according to the UK and USA regulations. Adriana had enough stem cells for at least two therapies.
Adriana and her family travelled to the United States for the cord blood therapy. She was infused the first time in May 2013 and the second time in December 2013. Prior to this therapy, Adriana was not able to speak. She also suffered from muscle contractions called dystonia, such that she was not able to walk or even to sit without support.
One evening before Adriana left for the second infusion in North Carolina, Irene received a phone call. A little voice was whispering at the other end, saying that she was happy to go and see Dr Kurtzberg once again after 6 months. Adriana could talk!! A proud moment for everybody at SmartBank and Biovault!
Adriana had a repeat MRI one year after the first infusion and her cerebral lesion had disappeared. She still needs to train herself like a little soldier every day in order to recover completely from dystonia, and she requires an exoskeleton in order to walk. However, she can now speak fluently.
If you’d like another example of how our work is helping families right now, please take a look at Grace’s story.
Adriana’s story was written by and featured on the website Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood – the leading independent international guide to Cord Blood –
BSc (Hons) Microbiology
Biovault Family CEO, Kate Sneddon, joined Biovault in July 2009 and became Chief Executive Officer in 2016. As health industry professional her experience includes working as a microbiologist and leader at GSK for over 10 years. Her expertise in cord blood banking has been recognised in her awards, features in Parliamentary Review and Parents Guide to Cord Blood, as well as contributions to research with UCL and others.