Naturally, we hope no family will ever need to use their child’s stem cells. But sometimes they do. That’s why we make sure every collection in our care is treated with exceptional attention to detail. We want to give families the best possible chance of a healthy future.Kate Sneddon, Biovault CEO and microbiologist
In late 2017 SmartBank Italy contacted us about a family in their care. The family had two children, the eldest of whom had Cerebral Palsy (CP). When their second child was born, in 2010, the parents had decided to store the newborn’s cord blood. The collection process is completely risk-free and involves collecting blood left in the cord and placenta after the baby is born, a resource that would otherwise be thrown away. With more and more cord blood therapies emerging, the family hoped that the stem cells in their baby’s blood may one day be able to treat their sibling’s CP.
Cord blood collection for cerebral palsy
SmartBank Italy organised the collection on 10 May 2010 and the cord blood was securely couriered to Biovault Family where it was successfully processed and stored on 11 May 2010. At this point, our scientists used HLA typing to check if the cord blood and the stem cells it contained were a close enough match to the child with Cerebral Palsy. Because cord blood contains the youngest form of adult stem cells, cord blood stem cells are usually more numerous, healthy and readily accepted the cells found in peripheral blood and bone marrow. In this case, there was a good match between the siblings.
By 2017, a pioneering trial for cord blood therapies for CP was underway at Duke University in the US. The family in Italy, SmartBank and Biovault had all been watching the trial’s progress with great interest, hoping that children with Cerebal Palsy would soon benefit from this opportunity for treatment.
Preparing cord blood for stem cell therapies
In early 2018 Biovault Family got in touch with Duke Univesity, securely sharing all the information the doctors would need to perform a transfusion. We check every cord blood collection that arrives at our facility for blood volumes, cell counts, cell viability, infectious diseases and other factors that will be important if the cells are ever needed for treatment.
In December 2018, just before Christmas, we shipped the unit to Duke, where scientists performed extensive testing on a small sample of the cord blood to make sure it was suitable for Cerebral Palsy treatment.
Cord blood transfusion for cerebral palsy
The whole family travelled to Duke in late March 2018, and the transfusion was scheduled for 1st April 2019. Unfortunately, the child was unwell on the day, and the transfusion took place as soon as they were well enough, on the 4th April. The transfusion is surprisingly simple and doesn’t cause the child any distress. Everything went well and the family were able to travel home shortly after.
Back at home, both children are well and the family are looking forward to progress checks at 6 and 12 months. To protect the privacy of the family we are unable to share any further details at this time but look forward to updating readers after these progress tests.
Trial document: Umbilical Cord Blood Infusions for Children With Brain Injuries