The objective of a family cord blood bank is to process and cryopreserve cord blood units (CBUs) that may be used for hemapoietic stem cell transplantation or for future use through regenerative medicine therapies (Armson et al. 2005).
Clinical outcomes of cord blood (CB) transplantation are influenced by the number of total nucleated cells (TNCs) in a CBU (Mazzocchetii et al 2014). Hence, it is important to obtain a large volume of CB during collection and maximize the retrieval of TNCs during processing to increase the quality of the unit (Gluckman et al 2004, Barker et al 2010, Jaime-Perez 2011 & Mazzocchetti 2014).
Furthermore, extensive research and clinical analysis have supported that, “the most important factor for the selection of a CBU for hematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cell transplantation is the TNC count which is used as a surrogate marker for stem cell content in a CBU.” (Manegold-Brauer et al 2014).
Progenics is the only family cord blood bank in the world that publishes their quality testing on their entire inventory.
Transparency, superior quality, significant results and processing innovation are all key attributes endorsed in Progenics newly released Monthly Quality Report. This quality report provides a detailed summary and analysis of the processing results from all of the cord blood samples processed by Progenics Cord Blood Cryobank from January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2016. The quality indicators referenced in the report look at 3 key variables: The yield of total nucleated cells (TNC); total viable nucleated cells (TVNC), and; CD34+ viability.
From 2013 to 2016 the report highlights the following annual averages:
The average annual percentage yield of total nucleated cells (TNC) was 98.22%
The average annual percentage of total viable nucleated cells (TVNC) was 93.59%
The average annual percentage of viable CD34+ cells was 99.13%
Significantly, the Progenics quality report results indicate that the outcome of the quality processing surpasses our internal quality standard by over 10%!
Supported by the data published in our quality report, at Progenics Cord Blood Cryobank, we can confidently claim that clients are receiving the highest cord blood processing results in the industry.
Armson, BA, Allan, DS & Casper, R, 2005, ‘Umblicial cord blood: Counselling, collection, and banking’, Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Canada, no. 328, pp. 832-844.
Barker, JN, Scaradavou, A & Stevens, CE, 2010, ‘Combined effect of total nucleated cell dose and HLA match on transplantation outcome in 1061 cord blood recipients with hematologic malignancies’, Blood, vol. 115, no. 9, pp. 1843-1849.
Gluckman, E, Rocha, V, Arcese, W, Michel, G, Sanz, G, Chan, KW, Takahashi, TA, Ortega, J, Filipovich, A, Locatelli, F, Asano, S, Fagioli, F, Vowels, M, Sirvent, A, Laporte, JP, Tiedemann, K, Amadori, S, Abecassis, M, Bordigoni, P, Diez, B, Shaw, PJ, Vora, A, Caniglia, M, Garnier, M, Ionescu, I, Garcia, J, Koegler, G, Rebulla, P, Chevret, S, Eurocord Group, 2004, ‘Factors associated with outcomes of unrelated cord blood transplant: guidelines for donor choice’, Experimental Hematology, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 397-407.
Jaime-Perez, JC, Monreal-Robles, R, Rodriguez-Romo, LN, Mancias-Guerra, C, Herrera-Garza, JL & Gomez-Almaguer, D, 2011, ‘Evaluation of volume and total nucleated cell count as cord blood selection parameters: a receiver operating characteristic curve modeling approach’, American Journal of Clinical Pathology, vol. 136, no. 5, pp. 721-726.
Manegold-Brauer, G, Borner, B, Bucher, C, Hoesli, I, Passweg, J, Girsberger, S, schoetzau, A, Gisin, S & Visca, E, 2014, ‘A prenatal prediction model for total nucleated cell count increases the efficacy of umbilical cord blood banking’, Transfusion, vol. 54, no. 11, pp. 2946-52.
Mazzocchetti, D, Bert, AM, Sartini R, Lucarini, A, Ragusa, G, Caroli M & Pierelli, L, 2014, ‘Totally nucleated cells as a sole predictor of distinct targets of hematopoietic potential (CD34+ cells) in cord blood units: the results of a large series analysis in autologous cord blood units”, Transfusion, vol. 54, no. 2, pp. 1256-1262.
The discovery of stem cells in 1961 by two brilliant scientists, Dr. James Till and Dr. Ernest McCulloch, paved the way for the possible treatment of many diseases that were previously thought to be incurable.
Types of stem cells
Part of the Till and McCulloch discovery is highlighting the different types of stem cells. Think of these different types of stem cells as master cells with profound regenerating abilities.
For example, embryonic stem cells are extracted from embryos. Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, which means that they can differentiate into any type of cell, such as in the liver, skin, brain or nerves.
Adult stem cells, on the other hand, are multipotent. They also have the ability to differentiate into new cells that are tissue-specific. Essentially, skin stem cells can only regenerate cells in the skin, but not in the liver or anywhere else.
Fortunately, scientists have now discovered a means for adult stem cells to mimic the pluripotent regenerative abilities of embryonic stem cells. These are named as induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.
Modern stem cell laboratories
The modern discovery by Dr. James Till, a biophysicist, and Dr. Ernest McCulloch, a cellular biologist, became the foundation on which many stem cell-based research and treatments are now being performed.
For instance, Stemcell Technologies Inc, a Vancouver-based biotechnology company, regularly produces thousands of tissue culture media types which are important for harvesting and cultivating stem cells. These are sold to clinical institutions around the globe, where they benefit millions of terminally ill patients.
Behind the success of stem cell companies
As companies like Stemcell show promising growth in a lucrative industry, they owe much of their success to the breakthrough discovery by Dr. Till and Dr. McCulloch.
Both scientists, Dr. Till and Dr. McCulloch, hailing from the Ontario Cancer Institute, published several research papers highlighting stem cells and their almost unbelievable abilities of self-regeneration, tissue repair, and transplant potential. Their discovery on stem cells is so significant that it is often hailed in comparison with the equally remarkable discovery of the DNA structure by James Watson and Francis Crick.
How stem cell research is moving forward
Like most modern discoveries, stem cell research was considered to be more theoretically important than it was clinically. At the outset, Dr. Till and Dr. McCulloch did not really get the attention they justifiably deserved for such an astounding discovery. Fortunately, because of the technical breakthroughs in science which included the development of tissue culture media, experts have finally started to comprehend the complex abilities of stem cells and their potential for curing diseases.
Stem cell transplant: Prevention or cure?
While there are still conservative doctors who insist on drugs, surgery, and radiation to manage terminal diseases like cancer, bone marrow diseases, metabolic conditions and spinal cord injury, stem cell transplant can actually treat them.
In fact, not long after the 1961 Till and McCulloch discovery, stem cells extracted from the bone marrow were already utilized to treat two common forms of cancer, namely leukemia and multiple myeloma. Now, stem cell transplants are used to cure autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and rare illnesses like scleroderma and stiff person syndrome.
With so many technical advances in research, we can expect that stem cell transplants will cure more diseases in the near future. Moreover, there is also promising research suggesting stem cell transplants have the potential to treat blindness and diabetes. Although these areas of stem cell treatments require more clinical trials to produce significant outcomes, the potential for success is there.
Availability of stem cell treatments
So how exactly are stem cell treatments carried out? Apart from regeneration, stem cells are actually transplantable. However, prior to transplant, sourcing the stem cells is another concern.
Fortunately, many cord blood banks now exist to extract the very valuable stem cells from the umbilical cord blood of a newborn. Umbilical cord blood stem cells are stored, preserved, and kept safe within very controlled conditions to make sure they remain viable after decades of cryopreservation. With the extensive research being performed in the field of cord blood and stem cell banking, iPS cells may well be stored in cord blood banks, too.
More specifically, a family cord blood bank exists to exclusively store your baby’s own umbilical cord blood stem cells for future use. Family cord blood banks are now readily available in several countries, so sourcing stem cells are not as difficult as thought.
Whether or not you have a family history of cancer, lifestyle diseases and incurable conditions, or perhaps a genetic predisposition to any terminal disease, considering the advances in stem cells research and its potential to treat much more diseases, banking your baby’s cord blood is a valuable investment.
Pregnancy is a wonderful time, even if some symptoms can be distressing. Amidst the morning sickness, back pains, constipation, heartburn, insomnia and skin changes, nothing is more meaningful than the experience of carrying life inside of you. Despite the sudden physical changes, mood swings and fear of the unknown, feeling your baby move and knowing you will soon become a mother is a comforting thought.
That being said, pregnancy is not the time to be complacent. You will need to look after yourself physically, emotionally, mentally, and even financially, as you provide nutrients to a growing baby.
As an expectant mother, here are 5 things you should consider doing during your pregnancy:
1. Eat a balanced diet
If you never paid much attention to your diet, now is definitely the time to be aware of what you eat and make sure what you are consuming meets the nutritional requirements your body needs throughout your pregnancy. Important vitamins include B-vitamins, as well as some nutrients like folic acid to prevent neural tube defects and iron to prevent anemia. Omega-fatty acids found in fish oil also help in proper brain development.
If you are unsure, your healthcare provider will be able to point you in the right direction. It is never too late to start eating right!
2. Staying fit
A growing belly is not an excuse for you to lie down and binge-eat all day. You still need some form of exercise to keep you fit. Ever heard of the phrase “eating for two”? It may not be true, as your baby’s nutritional needs are not the same as yours. Remember that during the first trimester, you need not increase your caloric intake. An additional 300 and 500 calories per day are required during the second and third trimesters, respectively.
Exercises considered safe for pregnancy include swimming, yoga, brisk walking and other light activities. The key is to exercise at your own pace and never over-exert. Staying fit during pregnancy has been proven to reduce the risk of complications like preterm labor, hypertension and gestational diabetes.
3. Live a healthy lifestyle
Pregnancy is definitely not the time to sip martinis and puff a cigarette--these are all harmful for the baby! There is no safe amount of alcohol or nicotine, as these easily cross the placenta and affect your baby with physical and mental defects. Caffeine in coffee, tea and soda of 200mg per day is said to be fine, but it is still best avoided.
If you think it is difficult to give up alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine, simply think of your baby’s health. Better yet, you may seek professional help to help you let go of your previous lifestyle.
4. Rest and de-stress
When your body is working double time to accommodate a growing baby, it is not unusual at all to feel a little burned out every now and then. Give yourself a break and rest as much as you can. Sleep at least 7 hours a day, and take power naps. Listen to your body and never force yourself to do activities you feel that are too stressful.
To de-stress, you can also try relaxation activities that are safe for pregnant women. Prenatal yoga is an excellent way to relax. You will be taught different breathing exercises that will come in handy during labor! It may not sound like much, but proper breathing really does make a difference to make labor pains more bearable.
In between the back pains and hip aches, you can also try prenatal massage to relax tense muscles. Just make sure the therapist is trained and qualified to perform prenatal massage, and always inform your doctor.
5. Consider cord blood banking
Now that you have a growing life inside of you, there are so many things to think about, which include the future of your baby. Many institutions now offer family cord blood banking as a means to secure the health of not just your child, but to other family members as well.
Stem cells found in the umbilical cord blood of a newborn have profound healing properties. Stem cell transplant using preserved cord blood is especially beneficial for patients suffering from terminal illnesses like cancer, metabolic disorders and bone marrow diseases.
Investing in a family cord blood bank is an investment for your child’s future. Your newborn’s fresh cord blood will be extracted from the umbilical cord, and it will be preserved in a family bank until such time that you, your baby or other relatives may need to use it for a stem cell transplant.
Dr. Guy Sauvageau, a renowned scientist at Université de Montréal’s Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer, discovered a specific molecule that is able to multiply stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood.
Cancers and their poor prognoses
Some types of cancer, like those affecting the blood cells or bone marrow, specifically lymphoma, myeloma and leukemia, are particularly hard to treat. Traditional treatments are too expensive, or unavailable and without guarantee of a successful outcome, medical management is focused on palliative care, or improving patients’ quality of life with the presence of the disease.
Stem cells in treating cancer
Stem cells are essentially immature cells, the youngest stage at which cells have yet to differentiate. Since stem cells mature to become specialized cells, they have the ability to replicate themselves for various purposes such as repairing or rebuilding damaged tissues of the human body. In the case of cancers involving the blood, stem cells can differentiate into the various types of blood cells in the bone marrow, where they eventually migrate to the bloodstream, ultimately treating the main problem of cancer.
Stem cells are transplanted from donor to recipient to make healthy and new blood cells. Stem cells can be collected from the blood of the umbilical cord upon the birth of a newborn. Such cells are extracted and preserved for future use, either by the newborn or immediate family members.
The UM171: A Potential Life-Saver
Going back to Dr. Sauvageau’s amazing discovery, in his paper entitled, The Multiplication of Blood Stem Cells: a Made-in-Québec Revolution, Dr. Sauvageau christened the newly discovered molecule as UM171, named after Université de Montréal. He details the possible uses of this molecule to enhance the availability of cord blood stem cells in the successful treatment of terminal diseases like lymphoma, myeloma, and leukemia, of which he also extensively researched.
As a potential life-saver, a human clinical trial utilizing the UM171 has begun and it is currently recruiting participants.1,2 The results of Dr. Sauvageau’s human clinical trials with the UM171 molecule are predicted to be so promising that the success probability of the trial is deemed to be outstanding.
Implications in Cord Blood Banking
A cord blood bank is crucial to store (cryopreserve) stem cells and preserve their healing abilities. With Dr. Sauvageau’s discovery of the UM171, this will have positive implications for banking cord blood and enhancing the application of cord blood stem cells in treatments.
Cryogenically preserved stem cells theoretically have no expiry, hence they can be stored for an indefinite time. Nevertheless, some still argue that due to the nature of cord blood being a comparatively small volume sample consequently providing a lower cell dose, it is a medical challenge to ensure that the number of preserved stem cells will be sufficient for treating heavier patients and benefit future generations.
Therefore, the UM171 and its capability of multiplying stem cells, addresses the exact problem raised by certain critics of stem cell banking and its availability for the long-term.
As we wait for the positive outcome of UM171 to unfold, numerous patients can hold on to the success probability associated with stem cell transplants to treat their illnesses. The opportunity associated with stem cell treatments gives us all a new hope that umbilical cord blood stem cells will be crucial in our collective effort to create a healthier future.
Health Canada allows clinical trials for UM171
Jeff Chiba Stearn’s documentary, Mixed Match, offers insight into the turbulent reality of cancer patients who are awaiting a suitable donor for a potential stem cell treatment. In particular, the documentary focuses on mixed-race patients whose chances of finding a matched-donor are significantly reduced when compared to patients from the majority demographic.
Multiracial patients have a harder time finding a match
Public cord blood banks work by pooling cord blood units from voluntary donors and selectively processing samples that meet the necessary requirements. The cord blood units that are processed and stored then become readily accessible for any patient who is eligible. It is not as easy as it sounds, though, because the cord blood unit and the recipient must be a match for treatment. Further, genetic background matters significantly when determining a donor match. Those who have mixed ethnicities, therefore, will take more time in finding a suitable donor—sometimes not even finding any donors at all, simply because there is a reduced chance that a mixed-race donor or two has donated cord blood to the particular registry.
Risks of a non-compatible transplant
What happens if transplant is carried out between a donor and recipient that do not match? Bone marrow transplant, for instance, carries a risk of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), which occurs because the recipient’s immune system recognizes the donor cells as “non-self” or “foreign”, akin to fighting cancer cells or bacteria. There are, of course, medications that suppress the immune system, but this may lead to further medical complications. Although generally treatable, GVHD can cause significant damage to the lungs, intestines, liver and skin, and may also increase the risk of a severe infection.
Cord blood as the solution
With cord blood transplant, however, a major advantage lies in the fact that cord blood is essentially full of hematopoietic stem cells—meaning, they have yet to differentiate into specialized cells that compose the blood and immune system. Cord blood stem cells, when transplanted into the recipient, naturally differentiates into those specialized cell types in the recipient’s body accordingly. Hence, risk of GVHD in cord blood transplant is significantly lower than any other type of transplant. With this healing ability of umbilical cord blood, one can imagine how much more successful it is in treating terminal disorders. With a higher success rate equating to a higher demand, it is no wonder why mixed-race patients have a hard time in finding a suitable match.
Looking into family blood banking
Stem cell banking has paved the way for cancer patients to have a valuable tool in their arsenal of treatment opportunities. Unfortunately, public stem cell banks only preserve blood that mirrors those from the majority ethnic and racial demographic.
Fortunately, a family cord blood bank, in comparison, offers a more exclusive approach by banking a newborn baby’s umbilical cord blood for the future use of any family member. This is especially beneficial for families with a history of cancer and disorders involving the blood, metabolism, and immune system. A person with sickle-cell anemia, for instance, can benefit from the stem cells harvested from the cord blood of a sibling preserved by a family bank. In this case, the odds that the donor and recipient will match are higher because their genetic backgrounds are expected to be of a similar make-up. Further, the risk of immune system rejection by the recipient is lower. With this advantage, mixed-race patients have a higher chance in finding a matching donor within the family and receive stem cell transplant treatments with lower risk. In the end, choosing a family cord blood bank to process and cryopreserve the stem cells from a newborn baby’s umbilical cord offers a reassuring opportunity for all families, and especially mixed-race families, in the fight against cancer.