Cord blood and its healing potential have been dramatically expanded by researchers in Canada.
Stem cells collected from the umbilical cord and placenta are younger, healthier and more flexible than those sourced from bone marrow or peripheral blood. So naturally, these are these cells are favoured by doctors; cord blood transplants are more likely to be accepted by patients and with fewer serious complications such as graft versus host disease.
With cord blood storage on the rise in the UK and worldwide, more lives are being saved and enhanced by newborn stem cells (follow this link to find out how this works). Biovault Family has released stem cell samples for the treatment of conditions ranging from leukaemia and sickle cell disease to cerebral palsy. Our cord blood screening, processing and transportation systems are vigorous and so far all samples released from our lab have been accepted with a 100% engraftment rate.
Cord blood truly is, in the words of a mum who knows, “like liquid gold”. It has been used in an estimated 40,000 procedures worldwide and its applications continue to grow. When it comes to protecting your children from life-threatening illnesses there really isn’t a better alternative.
But, there is a downside to cord blood: it comes in small quantities: “You get what you get. You can’t call up the baby and say ‘I want more cells,’” said Sandra Cohen, a haematologist at the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital in Montreal who is leading the trial that looks set to remove this limitation.
Cohen’s team have found a way to increase the stem cells from a single unit of cord blood by 35 times in a seven-day period. It’s this “expanded” form of cord blood that is now being tested in the Phase I/II clinical trial.
25 patients with severe blood cancers including acute leukaemia have now been treated with the expanded stem cells and researchers are already encouraged by the results. The overall survival rate after 12 months for patients who received the expanded cord transplant is currently 75 per cent, compared with 60 per cent for conventional cord transplants.
“It looks really promising but we need more patients and longer follow-ups to confirm it,” Dr Cohen said.