Tag Archive: stem cells

  1. 28th May is World Blood Cancer Day – cord blood can provide a cure

    Comments Off on 28th May is World Blood Cancer Day – cord blood can provide a cure

    We look at how umbilical cord blood can help treat people with certain life-threatening diseases, including some types of cancers.

    Why do we have a World Blood Cancer day?

    Every 27 seconds, someone somewhere in the world is diagnosed with blood cancer. Blood
    cancer refers to defects in the blood-forming system, which cause cancer cells to enter the
    bloodstream and multiply uncontrollably, crowding out the healthy cells. This means the blood
    can no longer perform its tasks, such as oxygen transportation and defence against germs.

    Depending on the level of maturity of the blood cells in which these changes take place, doctors
    distinguish between three main groups of blood cancer, each of which has many sub-types:
    leukemia, multiple myeloma and malignant lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes). Blood
    cancer therefore refers to various diseases of the blood-forming system.

    Did you know that umbilical cord blood can be used to treat more than 80 diseases, including blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma?

    Stem cell transplants with cord blood have been used to cure both children and adults with leukemia for longer than people think.

    The first cord blood stem cell transplant, an international effort between physicians in the U.S. and Europe, was performed in France in 1988. Stem cells collected from a newborn’s umbilical cord blood were used to save the life of her brother, a 5-year-old with Fanconi Anemia. 

    Since then, there have been more than 40,000 cord blood transplants performed worldwide. 

    What makes cord blood so special?

    The umbilical cord contains something very precious: hematopoietic stem cells.

    Hematopoietic stem cells have the ability of forming into mature blood cells – red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, providing what your body needs to stay healthy. 

    Cord blood stem cells are amazing.

    They have a natural ability to:

    Turn into different types of cells such as blood, tissue, nerve, and bone cells

    Make copies of themselves

    Replace damaged cells with healthy ones.

    What Is Cord Blood Used For Today?

    Cord blood has been used in transplant medicine for thirty years and can be used in the treatment of over 80 diseases including:


    Acute lymphoblastic leukemia | Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma | Neuroblastoma 

    Blood Disorders

    Sickle-cell anemia | Cooley’s anemia | β-thalassemia intermedia 

    Bone Marrow Failure Syndromes

    Fanconi anemia | Diamond-Blackfan anemia | Juvenile dermatomyositis  

    Metabolic Disorders

    Hurler syndrome | Tay-Sachs Disease | Krabbe disease 

    Immune Disorders

    Severe combined immunodeficiency | DiGeorge syndrome | Reticular dysplasia

    What is a cord blood transplant?

    You need healthy bone marrow and blood cells to live. If you have a condition that affects your bone marrow or blood, then a stem cell transplant could be the best treatment option. For some people, a transplant offers hope of a potential cure.

    A bone marrow or stem cell transplant means that doctors or nurses will put new, healthy stem cells into your bloodstream. These cells make their way to your bone marrow where they begin to grow and make healthy new blood cells.

    Who can potentially use my newborn’s cord blood?

    A cord blood transplant could be a suitable treatment option for:

    • a condition that means that you’re not able to make your own healthy blood cells, for example aplastic anaemia or a genetic condition affecting your blood, bone marrow or immune system
    • a condition that means that you’re not able to make your own healthy blood cells, for example aplastic anaemia or a genetic condition affecting your blood, bone marrow or immune system
    • blood cancer that is unlikely to be cured by chemotherapy alone
    • anyone needing a stem cell transplant who does not have another suitable stem cell donor.

    When a patient is treated with their own cells, it is defined as an autologous transplant; if they receive cells from a donor the transplant is allogenic. 

    In the UK, parents can choose to store their baby’s cord blood privately, or donate to a public bank. 

    Private banking is the only way to guarantee that matching stem cells are available should your child or matched relative ever need a haematopoietic stem cell transplant. 

    It is particularly important to store privately if a member of your family has a condition such as sickle cell disease, which can be cured with matching HSCs. Some families also choose to store cord blood to treat an older relative who has received a blood or immune disease diagnosis.

    For other conditions however, there may be a genetic predisposition to that disease, and in these cases a patient may not be able to use his or her own stem cells. In this situation a matched sibling’s stem cells would be the first choice before looking for alternative donors.

    For most families, cord blood and tissue storage is an insurance policy they hope never to use. The steady rise in life-enhancing as well as life-saving stem cell therapies, however, suggests we may all use regenerative treatments one day.

    Download our brochure to find out more r call our team on 01752 753723.


    Why parents should save their baby’s cord blood — and give it away, Harvard Health

    Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood

    Cord blood donation, NHS Cord Blood Bank

    Cord blood banking – what you need to know, FDA

    What is a cord blood transplant? Anthony Nolan

    How umbilical cord blood can save someone’s life, Cancer

    Cord blood stem cell transplantation, The Leukaemia and Lymphoma Society

  2. Happy Father’s Day from Biovault Family – Here’s a special gift for dads!

    Comments Off on Happy Father’s Day from Biovault Family – Here’s a special gift for dads!

    We’re counting down to Father’s Day – a wonderful day where we celebrate the amazing role dads play in our lives.

    To celebrate, we’re offering an amazing 15% off ALL of our packages when you order before 5pm on 19th June.

    Simply click on the button below to start your order and use code DAD15 in the voucher code box. Your 15% discount will be added to your final invoice.

    Our offer

    Family package

    Our Family package stores your baby’s cord blood with an annual, 25- or 50-year option. With our 15% offer, you’ll pay the below:

    Family Annual –

    Original cost – £1,650

    Discount cost – £1,402.50

    Annual cost – £60 per year storage

    After a deposit of £160, this works out to £69.03 a month spread out over 18 months.

    Family 25 Years –

    Original cost – £2,150

    Discount cost – £1,827.50

    After a deposit of £160, this works out to £92.64 a month spread out over 18 months with nothing further to pay for 25 years.

    Family 50 Years –

    Original cost – £3,150

    Discount cost – £2,677.50

    After a deposit of £160, this works out to £139.86 a month spread out over 18 months with nothing further to pay for 50 years.

    Family Plus

    Our Family Plus package stores your baby’s cord blood and cord tissue, with an annual, 25 or 50 year option. With our 15% offer, you’ll pay the below:

    Family Plus Annual –

    Original cost – £1,950

    Discount cost – £1,657.50

    Annual cost – £90 per year storage

    After a deposit of £160, this works out to £83.19 a month spread out over 18 months.

    Family Plus 25 Years –

    Original cost – £2,650

    Discount cost – £2,252.50

    After a deposit of £160, this works out to £116.25 a month spread out over 18 months with nothing further to pay for 25 years.

    Family Plus 50 Years –

    Original cost – £4,050

    Discount cost – £3,442.50

    After a deposit of £160, this works out to £182.36 a month spread out over 18 months with nothing further to pay for 50 years.

    The only other charge, should you require it, is a one-off payment of £300 for a phlebotomist to collect the cord blood and / or cord tissue.

    Why should I store my baby’s cord blood and cord tissue?

    Your baby’s cord blood and cord tissue contain life-saving stem cells – these stem cells are amazing!

    Cord blood contains haemopoietic stem cells that can differentiate into different types of blood cells – red blood cells, white blood cells or platelets. These cells are used to treat blood cancers such as lymphoma and leukaemia and also other immunodeficiency diseases.

    Cord tissue contains mesenchymal stem cells that can turn into tissue cells, such as nerve, bone, tendon and muscle. Cord tissue is currently being used in an impressive number of clinical trials in terms of regenerative medicine to treat conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Cerebral Palsy, to name a few.

    After birth, these stem cells are at their healthiest. Collection takes place after birth, so there’s no risk to you or your new baby. You can also delayed cord clamping in line with the World Health Organisation’s guidelines.

    There is a small window of opportunity to store these amazing cells – usually these are thrown away with the placenta after birth. By banking them, you are protecting your child well into adulthood.

    Why choose Biovault Family?

    There are numerous reasons to choose us to bank your child’s cord blood and cord tissue. For now, here’s just a few. We:

    • Offer a fully inclusive package saving up to £5,000 compared to other blood banks with no additional storage charges if you store for 25 or 50 years
    • Transfer the storage element of your fee to a separate Escrow account. This gives you complete peace of mind in case anything happens.
    • Partner with the NHS, so we have higher accreditations than any of the other blood banks and we release stem cells back into the NHS daily
    • Offer 1 year’s free StemCellCare insurance, which pays out a lump sum of £75,000 if you need to use your stem cells
    • Store in one location – Once your stem cells have been processed, they are in an extremely fragile state. Due to this we believe the risk of damage occurring during transit is higher than the risk of a catastrophic event occurring at our facility
    • Have a voucher referral scheme – hand out your vouchers to anyone who is pregnant, and if they sign up to our services you receive a £100 love to shop voucher and they receive a 10% discount – these vouchers are unlimited for you. If you are on the 0% payment plan, get £100 off your balance instead!
    • Are also a Human Tissue Bank – the other companies are blood banks only

    More affordable than other cord blood banks

    Our Family Plus 25- and 50-year packages are inclusive of annual storage. Other blood banks will charge you an annual storage fee, which can increase the amount you pay by £2,500 over 25 years or an incredible £5,000 over 50 years.

    Whilst many discount their initial package costs with an offer, the annual storage means you can sometimes be paying twice as much.

    Have a look at our price comparison page to see how our standard cord blood / cord blood and cord tissue packages compare to our competitors.

    Terms and Conditions

    Please note that this offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer. Any orders placed after 5pm on 19th June will not receive the 15% discount. The discount is as stated.

  3. Biovault prides itself on being an ethical company

    Comments Off on Biovault prides itself on being an ethical company

    But, what does this mean and how do we apply our ethics to our day-to-day practices?

    Biovault Family prides itself as an ethical company offering umbilical stem cell banking to parents in the UK, Europe and Middle East, but in relation to this service what does “ethical” mean?  

    It fundamentally comes down to looking at the service offered in its entirety and ensuring that at each stage, information given, level of care and transparency of approach is considered with the parents, child and ultimately clinicians who may use the cells in mind.  

    Biovault is in the unique position of working directly as part of the NHS South West Peninsula Transplant programme. This interaction on a daily basis with healthcare professionals (consultants, nurses, biomedical scientists) that are treating patients with complex cancers and conditions where stem cell transplant may be the last viable treatment option allows us to fully understand the requirements, standards and challenges these healthcare professionals face.

    Biovault Family seeks to educate parents at each stage in the process, ensuring that information given is accurate, complete and honest.  

    Examples of this include, 

    • If the mother has a condition, that means she is not suitable as a donor, or the scope of use may be limited we will advise of this in advance of providing the service.  
    • We apply criteria to cell counts and cell quality of the cord blood and advise customers where we think storage may not be appropriate.  
    • We provide clear information on approved treatments and those in clinical trial stage to ensure parents understand the limitations with the cells stored based on current information.

    What are the ethical practices that Biovault has in place?

    Biovault educates parents on cord stem cell banking and the options available to them. We work with customers to ensure their birth plan is supported and the cord stem cells can be collected.  Our sales team do not apply pressure to parents during the sales process.

    Biovault’s agreement with the parents is clear and unambiguous with no hidden costs such as annual storage charges, unless a specific annual storage payment package is chosen.  Where affordability is a challenge Biovault offers options, packages and support to parents.

    Where a prepaid storage package is chosen Biovault transfers the ongoing storage costs for the period chosen to an Escrow company who hold that money separately to Biovault to ensure the funds to cover the remaining storage are in place and governed separately from Biovault.

    Should the cells be required for a treatment a full data package is supplied to the clinician in advance allowing them to make informed choices based on the quality and quantity of cells available.

    How does this differentiate Biovault Family from other cord blood banking companies?

    Many banks use high pressure sales tactics to entice parents to store their child’s cells with them.  They spend little time educating parents and seek purely to make the sale and “fill in the gaps” later.  Our Client advisors are more than happy to spend time with customers to ensure expectations are met and share experience.  During the CV-19 pandemic they have been a source of advice to many customers on what to expect at hospital with access restrictions.

    The long-term storage fees can be hidden by other companies. We speak to many parents who are unaware of the annual storage costs for which they will be liable, from other banks packages.

    We care about the families we support and ensure they have all the information they require, and can rely on us if times get tough and the cells are required.  We will always seek to give accurate and comprehensive results.

    We are proud of our organisation. If you want to find out more, get in touch with the team who will be on hand to help.

  4. Can Type 1 diabetes be cured with stem cells?

    Comments Off on Can Type 1 diabetes be cured with stem cells?

    It’s good to know that stem cell therapy holds great potential for curing patients with Type 1 diabetes. As experts in the collection and storage of umbilical cord blood, we’re fascinated by the research. Let’s take a look at the details behind this exciting discovery. 

    How many people are suffering from diabetes worldwide?

    According to the International Diabetes Foundation, diabetes is spiralling out of control across the world. One in ten of us is currently living with diabetes, and the number of children being diagnosed with the condition is rising fast. 

    What is diabetes? 

    Diabetes is a lifelong medical condition. It causes your blood sugar level to sky rocket. The two main types of the disease are Type 1, where the immune system attacks and destroys the cells that make insulin. Type 2, where the body does not produce enough insulin or cells don’t react to it, is usually down to obesity.  Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas. It regulates blood sugar levels, helping the glucose from food enter the body’s cells where they’re used for energy. In this article we’re looking at Type 1 diabetes, the cause of which remains mostly a mystery. Research is still being carried out to pin down what triggers the immune system to destroy beta cells in Type 1 diabetes.

    How is diabetes treated?

    Balance sits at the heart of treatment for Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes management is a lifelong task. The condition doesn’t respond to lifestyle changes, medicines or medical devices. Because there’s no cure and no simple way to treat it, treatment is all about balancing the perfect amount of insulin in the body to keep a patient’s blood glucose levels from falling to low or getting too high. 

    This involves being given insulin, either via an injection or by infusion via a special insulin pump. Luckily, these days, both processes are quick, discreet and often painless. But it’s a hassle for patients having to give themselves constant injections. Can stem cell therapy help? 

    How are we using stem cells to understand diabetes?

    The scientific community is using stem cell therapy to come to a better understanding of Type 1 diabetes. There have been several studies so far but experts say while it has promise, more research is required to prove the theory. 

    What is the potential for stem cells to treat diabetes?

    Autoimmunity is a big problem for people with Type 1 diabetes. Even if treatments create or provide new beta cells for a patient, their immune system will eventually target and destroy the new cells. New treatments need to also deal with this aspect of the disease, preventing new beta cells from being damaged and destroyed. So far this has involved immune suppressants, which can increase the infection risk. It’s far from ideal. 

    Luckily there’s good potential to treat type 1 diabetes with stem cells in future. First, we need longer and larger trials to establish the facts properly, without any doubts.   

    One patient in a recent study where people were given stem cell therapy for three months saw good results. Beforehand they were using 34 daily units of insulin to control the condition. After three months of stem cell therapy the patient used just 2.9 units of insulin daily. While they still had diabetes, their condition had ‘improved’. But this was just one person, and a trial with one positive reaction cannot prove a theory. 

    This experimental treatment of Type 1 diabetes with stem cells is still in the early development stages. Vertex Pharmaceuticals were responsible for the research and they revealed the preliminary results in October 2021. As the Everyday Health website reports, “Stem cell therapies involve replacing diseased or dysfunctional cells with healthy ones. All these lab experiments eventually led to VX-880, an infusion of replacement islet cells derived from embryonic stem cells. This is not only a potential breakthrough in the treatment of type 1 diabetes, it’s also one of the first practical demonstrations that embryonic stem cells might indeed be used to make treatments that replace dysfunctional cells — in this case islet cells in the pancreas”

    The answer to the all-important question, can stem cell therapy cure Type 1 diabetes, is still being researched and trialled. It’s too early to ask for the treatment, but the signs at this stage are optimistic. 

    What is the clinical status of cell-based therapies for diabetes? 

    Stem cell treatments for type 1 diabetes are still at an early clinical stage. The current research is looking into using pluripotent stem cells to create fresh beta cells to be transplanted into patients with Type 1 diabetes. At the moment trials are experimenting with devices and capsules designed to protect transplanted stem cell-derived precursor cells of new beta cells from the patient’s own immune system. The scientists involved are also examining the potential for special drugs to make the cells in the pancreas create more beta cells naturally. 

    Come back soon to find out about the latest research and science on umbilical cord blood stem cells and other innovative types of stem cell therapy. 


    No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.


  5. Can stem cells be used to treat autism?

    Comments Off on Can stem cells be used to treat autism?

    April is Autism Awareness Month. So can autism be treated with stem cells? Let’s take a look at the research. 

    What is autism?

    Autism isn’t an illness. People with the condition can live a full and enjoyable life and the experience is different for everyone. Autistic people often act in a different way to others. It might be a bit more challenging for them to communicate and interact, and to understand the way other people think and feel. 

    Loud noises and bright lights can make autistic people feel stressed, and everyday unfamiliar situations and social events can make them uncomfortable. It can take a while longer to understand information. Some autistic people find comfort in repetitive behaviour. It often occurs along with conditions like ADHD, anxiety, depression, and epilepsy. 

    Basically, autism is different for everyone. 

    What causes autism? It’s one of those medical mysteries. Nobody knows, so far, why it happens, although there’s some evidence it can run in families. It is absolutely not caused by vaccines, bad parenting, or a bad diet, and it doesn’t affect a person’s intelligence. 

    How can stem cell therapy be used to treat autism?

    Are stem cells used to treat autism?

    As revealed by the USA’s National Library of Medicine website in 2018, in an article talking about ASDs or Autism Spectrum Disorders. “Due to neurobiologic changes underlying ASD development, cell-based therapies have been proposed and applied to ASDs. Indeed, stem cells show specific immunologic properties, which make them promising candidates in ASD treatment.”

    On the face of it, this looks like good news. But as the report concludes, just five clinical trials had taken place at the time of writing, each formulated differently so it’s not possible to draw firm conclusions.  This ‘will require further examinations’, with ‘more complete and exhaustive investigations and large trials’ needed in order to ‘claim definitive results’

    Autism treatment using stem cell therapy is also a subject of discussion for Autism Parenting magazine. Their reporter mentions a study by Price (2020). They reveal that because some studies blame immune dysfunction as the cause and effect of autism spectrum disorder, the stem cell therapy approach for treating autism might have some potential. But again, so far it remains a hypothesis, not scientific fact. 

    How effective is stem cell therapy for autism?

    While stem cell therapy is already recognised as a possible approach to supporting those with autism, the simple answer is we don’t know yet, because we know so little about why people develop autism in the first place. It could be down to genetic immune dysfunction, it could be laid at the feet of inflammatory stimuli, it might be something else altogether. While the signs for umbilical cord blood and autism are looking hopeful, we need to wait for proof. 

    We’re hopeful, since stem cells have the unique ability to influence the human metabolism and immune systems, as well as restoring damaged cells and tissues, including the organs and entire systems. Watch this space for new research. We’ll report on any new results as soon as they’re announced. 


  6. Meet Kate Sneddon – World leader in stem cells

    Comments Off on Meet Kate Sneddon – World leader in stem cells

    Since 2004, Biovault Family has collected, processed and released cord blood stem cells to treat leukaemia, neuroblastoma, sickle cell disease, cerebral palsy and more. Stem cell therapy could ultimately treat a huge range of conditions including Alzheimer’s, hearing loss, and even spinal cord injury. Biovault is the only UK cord blood bank working in partnership with NHS hospitals and it’s led by CEO Kate Sneddon.

    No wonder so many women put Kate Sneddon on a pedestal. As a personality she’s calm, peaceful and beautiful, widely revered in the business world she swims so confidently in. How did she get where she is? And what attributes have sealed her success as a senior female in a world where men still mostly rule the roost? 

    Back in 2009 Kate Sneddon, who lives in Cornwall with her husband Ken, two daughters and Cocker Spaniel puppy Piper, joined Biovault Family. In 2016, just seven years later, she accepted the role of Chief Executive Officer. A respected microbiologist who worked with GSK for more than a decade, these days Kate’s expertise in cord blood banking is widely recognised through a collection of awards as well as features in respected publications and contributions to high-profile research projects.

    As Chief Executive Officer at Biovault, Kate manages a group of companies including Biovault Technical and Biovault Family. She loves working for a small, agile company that makes fast decisions involving experts from across the organisation. Engaging with customers and people – in her spare time she’s a governor at a local school and Chair of the Plymouth Health Innovation Alliance Executive Group – is a vital skill, especially when faced with seemingly unrealistic aims, pinning down exactly what the customer wants then developing a suitable product and process.

    At the same time, it’s important to realise an individual can’t do everything. The internal and external delegation has helped Kate and the Biovault team do a better job, avoiding being drawn into the fine detail when there’s neither need nor benefit. It’s about working smarter rather than harder.  

    As you can imagine, the potential locked inside stem cells always generate strong media interest. Kate works hard to make sure the messages Biovault broadcasts are unbiased and ethical, giving an accurate picture of what these cells really can be used for. Despite the media furore, stem cell banking take-up remains comparatively low in the UK, a fact that drives her to keep on raising awareness. 

    Three things have supported Kate in her journey so far as a woman in the world of business, and bravery is one of them. In her words, “When I’m nervous I put my game face on and give it my best. It’s the most any of us can do.” Knowing the subject is another. When you have all the facts at your fingertips you’re confident and credible. And integrity is the third. “Commit to something, then do it. If you can’t or it isn’t relevant anymore, explain why not clearly and honestly.” 

    Today’s business landscape remains challenging for women and, in Kate’s opinion, the challenges faced by working women in future will probably be much the same. Developing a solid store of knowledge, expertise and confidence will, in her view, help women succeed, as will making sure future business models work fairly for all genders. Support from the government matters, and she places special emphasis on inclusive childcare support. There’s a lot more work needed before both men and women can work flexibly around family life. 

    Will all this bring more women like Kate to the boardroom? Hopefully. A better boardroom gender balance breaks down barriers, delivers more business opportunities, and inspires more people to aim for boardroom positions. But first, the world of work needs to break down the gender stereotypes we face from childhood. In a balanced world, there wouldn’t be any gender stereotypes. It wouldn’t even occur to children.

    Achieving the change is an enormous ask thanks to the many small but potent messages given out every day that unconsciously affect our children. Kate does her best to counteract these when she notices them in her own two daughters. As she says, “My children sometimes feel limited because of their gender. I do my best to positively reinforce the message that gender isn’t important, that we can achieve anything we want to.” 

    Kate is hugely optimistic about the next generation of working women, born with the internet and mobile technologies and naturally able to adopt and run with new tech. This will deliver dramatic business advantages around efficiency, marketing and customer communications, particularly via Artificial Intelligence and the findings that fall out of Big Data analysis. 

    Both Kate and her husband work for organisations that employ more women than men. It’s perfectly normal in healthcare. She’s delighted to see sectors traditionally dominated by men, for example, the tech industry, beginning to target girls at school in an effort to break down the old barriers, and she hopes this will continue and spread. 

    So what inspires Kate on to ever-greater things? It isn’t celebrities. It isn’t world leaders. It’s actually the “knowledge, ability and resilience of women who I routinely interact with who have skills and expertise I don’t.”  These include her colleagues at the Biovault, her children’s headteacher, and her fitness and yoga, instructors. They’re all women. And while they face the same day by day issues as the rest of us, they excel in their chosen field. 

    Kate’s advice is to follow your own star, do what you love, keep your options open, notice when you’re given the chance to broaden your experience and absorb as much knowledge as you can. As she concludes, “I’m seeing, as time passes, a steady improvement in the potential for women at every level in business. Being in a position to move the needle and help change things faster means such a lot to me.” 

    And for Kate, aside from her job, doing what she loves involves making the most of living in the South West, exploring beaches locally and further afield in the family camper van, and cold water swimming and paddle boarding throughout the year. 

    Like what you hear? Talk to our team today to find out more about stem cells – download our brochure for more information, call the team on 01752 753723 or book a free consultation now.

  7. Umbilical cord blood transplant cures a woman of HIV 

    Comments Off on Umbilical cord blood transplant cures a woman of HIV 

    More than 40 years after the HIV virus was first encountered researchers are still fighting to develop ways to cure HIV, including a range of potential gene therapies. Now one New York woman has been cured of HIV, which remains one of humanity’s most ‘resilient’ viruses. 

    HIV AIDS arrived in the late ‘70s. By the early ‘80s, it was rife, and a brand new pandemic had arrived. In 2020 alone, about 690,000 people died of the virus. Now there’s ‘VB’, a new and more infectious variant of the HIV virus. Luckily it’s treatable.

    There are hints about a cancer drug that could one day work alongside an existing HIV medicine to kill the virus. That’s one for the future. But a few days ago we heard some truly wonderful news about a woman who has been cured of HIV thanks to an umbilical cord blood transplant. Here’s what you need to know. 

    2007’s landmark HIV cure

    In 2007, Timothy Ray Brown was the first person to be cured of HIV. His transplant, from a donor who was naturally resistant to HIV, worked. Since then it has only happened twice more, once for a man called Adam Castillejo, and once with the current female New York patient, we’re discussing. All three people had cancer, needing a stem cell transplant to survive, and curing HIV wasn’t the main aim of the treatment. 

    New York City’s HIV therapy triumph 

    The woman was given a transplant of umbilical cord blood. The other two people we mentioned who have been ‘cured’ of AIDS were given adult stem cells from bone marrow. Umbilical cord blood is much more widely available compared to the adult stem cells used for the first two cures. And it also doesn’t come with the need for a close match between the donor and the recipient, either.

    The woman stopped taking antiretroviral drugs in October 2020 after a transplant of stem cells containing a rare genetic mutation that blocks HIV invasion. Since then she hasn’t seen any detectable signs of HIV virus despite extensive testing. Now she’s being hailed as the third person in the world, and the first female, to be cured of the virus that has killed countless millions.

    It all began with leukaemia treatment 

    Experts say the transplant method is too risky for most HIV patients. This is the first time it has been used as a ‘functional cure’ for HIV. The woman, who was suffering from the blood cancer leukaemia, was given a stem cell transplant taken from a person who had a natural resistance to the virus that causes AIDS. Now she has been free of the AIDS virus for 14 months. 

    The transplanted cells had a genetic mutation that stops the HIV virus from infecting them. Scientists think the woman’s immune system has developed resistance to HIV. This is amazing news for us, adding another string to an already impressive bow of potential umbilical blood stem cell treatments for nasty illnesses.  It also brings hope to the millions of people – mostly in sub-Saharan Africa – who are living with the HIV virus. 

    What does the future hold for umbilical cord stem cells and a cure for HIV? 

    As Sharon Lewin, president of the International Aids Society, says, while this transplant method isn’t viable for most people living with HIV, it ‘confirms that a cure for HIV is possible and further strengthens using gene therapy as a viable strategy for an HIV cure.’ 

    While the study is yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, and a scientific consensus hasn’t yet been reached, it’s hopeful. And when you’re living with AIDS, hope means a lot. 

    Bank your baby’s umbilical cord blood

    You never know when your child may become sick. By taking a few minutes to bank your baby’s stem cells after birth, you could protect them for years to come. Talk to our team today – download our brochure to find out more or book your free consultation!


    stem cell preservation

    BSc (Hons) Microbiology

    Chief Executive Officer | Biovault Family

    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.

  8. How is umbilical cord blood used to treat blood cancers?

    Comments Off on How is umbilical cord blood used to treat blood cancers?

    Did you know umbilical cord blood is being used to treat a number of cancers of the blood? And did you know you can collect and store the cord blood from your newborn to use in potentially life-saving treatments as they get older? This article explores how umbilical cord blood is used to treat blood cancers, a fascinating story that’s only just beginning and has a lot more to give to parents across the world.  

    Riley Maclennan’s story

    Let’s kick off with something heart-warming. This is Riley Maclennan’s story. In 2021 Riley, aged seven was saved from cancer. It was all thanks to a stem cell transplant taken from a new baby’s umbilical cord. The cord blood collection process is completely safe, easy and fast, and more parents every year are investing in it. 

    Riley’s myelodysplastic syndrome was a type of blood cancer, very rare in children. The family were told his best chance of survival was a stem cell transplant, using stem cells from umbilical cord blood. 

    Riley was given the transplant the second time cancer arrived, having endured chemotherapy in isolation miles from home in Glasgow. Now he’s in remission, his parents are thrilled, and he launched World Cancer Day in Scotland on 4th February. 

    No wonder heart-warming stories like Riley’s inspire us to keep talking about the incredible power of stem cells harvested from umbilical cord blood. 

    Chris Lihosit’s life-saving treatment

    In early August 2015, Chris Lihosit fell ill. He was exhausted, dehydrated, and feverish. He had acute myeloid leukaemia, a fast-progressing and often deadly cancer. The biopsy revealed 80% of his bone marrow cells were cancerous. Worse still, chemotherapy wouldn’t be as effective as usual on this kind of cancer. 

    Genetic tests made it clear Chris was also in an unusually high-risk category, with just one copy of chromosome 21 leaving him facing a dismal outcome. All this meant the cancer was likely to return without a bone marrow transplant. Sadly that wasn’t possible either, leaving an umbilical cord blood transplant his only option. 

    Chris’s own bone marrow cells had been destroyed by radiation and chemo. The transplant of just four tablespoons of cord blood extract donated by twin baby girls saved his life. 97 days later Chris was officially declared free from cancer that almost killed him. 

    About umbilical cord blood and leukaemia

    Cord blood is being used to treat one of the most dreaded cancers of all, leukaemia. So what is leukaemia, and how can umbilical cord stem cells be used to treat leukaemia? 

    Leukaemia is a cancer of the blood cells. It forces the body to make abnormal blood cells, which behave differently from healthy cells. The type of leukaemia depends on the type of cell affected and whether it’s an acute, fast-growing version or a chronic, slower-growth variant of the disease. In its worst form, it is potentially lethal and the chronic form can also kill. 

    Cord blood transplants are being used to treat leukaemia, and have been used since the early 1990s in both children and adults. So far most of the world’s 35,000 cord blood transplants have been used to treat leukaemia patients and people with other blood disorders. 

    One piece of 2016 research by the New England Journal of Medicine compared cord blood transplants to bone marrow transplants for leukaemia. While both groups had roughly the same survival rate, cord blood patients lived for longer and were less at risk of relapse. 

    Importantly, children with leukaemia or other blood disorders need a transplant from a donor, not their own cord blood.  This is because some children and teens get leukaemia because of a genetic defect, which means it’s no good transplanting the defect back into their body via their own cord blood. 

    Stem cell treatment and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

    A stem cell transplant might be offered as part of the treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, also called ALL. The transplant means you can have high doses of chemotherapy and other treatments more safely than without the treatment. A transplant like this is most likely when your cancer has features that suggest it might return after being treated, or it has come back and you have already relapsed. 

    Experts believe cord blood stem cells can work better than the alternatives 

    The 2016 research we mentioned earlier revealed umbilical cord blood as having the potential to work better against leukaemia than bone marrow and stem cells from other sources. In the words of an assistant member of the Clinical Research Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, “In centres with experience, it can yield great outcomes.”  

    This is the case, especially for those patients who have ‘minimal residual disease’, in other words, small numbers of cancer cells remit becomes ‘significantly’ lower after a cord blood stem cell transplant. 

    Cord blood cancer treatment advances in Canada

    Over in Canada, Dr. Marjorie Brand is using umbilical cord blood to study blood diseases and cancers. She rates cord blood highly and is especially interested in the formation of red blood cells from the original hematopoietic stem cells they begin life as. 

    The discovery that two proteins compete inside each cell and the ‘winner’ turns into a blood cell or platelet was a “breakthrough in the field of stem cell biology”.  Knowing how the process works should ultimately improve leukaemia detection levels and suggest new potential treatments, including innovative drugs for leukaemia patients.

    What’s the future of umbilical cord blood therapies? 

    We scanned the New Scientist website for more news about cord blood treatments. We found articles talking about the way blood from human babies makes the brains of elderly mice young again, how it might one day be able to fix your brain after a stroke, and the way these cells appear to kill cancer faster than adult stem cells. They’re described as a potential ‘lifeline’ for stroke patients, and they’re popular because they are ethical, harvested from cord blood that would otherwise be discarded rather than from human embryos. 

    The future is looking bright in our world. Will you collect and store your newborn’s cord blood for a brighter healthcare future?

    Answering your questions about cord blood cancer treatment  

    What is a cord blood transplant? How can I store my baby’s cord blood? They’re increasingly common questions, and we’re delighted to provide answers. Want to find out more? Download our brochure or contact our expert team.


    stem cell preservation

    BSc (Hons) Microbiology

    Chief Executive Officer | Biovault Family

    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.

  9. Plymouth-based Biovault Family supports free baby safety workshops for all

    Comments Off on Plymouth-based Biovault Family supports free baby safety workshops for all

    Plymouth-based Biovault Family has announced a new partnership with The Baby Academy to provide free baby safety workshops.

    The sessions are available on line via My Baby Academy and provide parents with practical advice on topics such as allergic reactions in babies, baby rashes, teething, baby ear infections, and administering medicine correctly to your baby.

    Biovault Family is the UK’s largest private human tissue bank which is licensed to handle all human tissue types including cord blood and tissue.

    Jo Kingston, head of sales at Biovault Family, said: “We are all so passionate about making baby safety accessible to all, and wanted to support a programme that gave provision for this in a fun way. The Baby Academy is run by a brilliant team of experts who share their knowledge on all sorts of topics around baby safety and we’re proud to be supporting this initiative. The workshops are completely free of charge to all parents across the UK.”

    Based in Plymouth’s International Medical and Technology Park beside its partners at Derriford Teaching Hospital, Biovault Family has led the way in human tissue processing and storage since 2004. It provides both tissue and cellular processing and storage to the NHS and to strategic private partners around the world.  

    It also has an umbilical cord blood and tissue banking service, a process in which cord blood — a rich source of stem cells — is taken from the umbilical cord of a new born baby after delivery and stored for future use, either for personal use, or by a close member of the family.

    Jo explained: “A baby’s umbilical cord is possibly the richest available source of stem cells they will ever have. With cord blood banking, you can collect these powerful cells from the umbilical cord and tissue and store them for use in stem cell therapies.

    “It’s believed that cord blood stem cells are one of the cornerstones of regenerative medicine and these stem cells are currently being used in thousands of clinical trials for many incurable diseases, such as cerebral palsy, autism and diabetes

    In the future, they could be used to repair your baby’s damaged tissue, regenerate old organs or even replace body parts.”

    My Baby Academy provides a number of courses led by a team of health professionals and delivered online in real-time on an interactive platform. You can book your free place. You can find out more about cord blood banking.