This week we have a blog all about stem cells and the amazing new technologies that allow these cells to be collected at birth to potentially be used to save a life.
I have to confess, here at Mini First Aid our knowledge on this topic was limited, and as stem cell technology can save lives, we thought it was a good idea to bring it to your attention so you can make informed choices yourselves. Over to Future Health Biobank, global leaders in stem cell processing for this really interesting blog . . .
What are stem cells?
Stem cells are often referred to as the "building blocks of life" with the ability to turn into different types of cells such as blood, cartilage and tissue cells.
Where can stem cells be collected from?
These precious cells can be collected from the umbilical cord at birth, through a safe and non-invasive process. They are then cryogenically preserved (frozen at very low temperatures) for many years in case they are needed for future clinical application to treat conditions such as leukemia, anaemia and solid tumours.
Stem cells can also be harvested from children’s milk teeth. This provides another chance to store stem cells if the opportunity was missed at birth.
What types of stem cells can be collected?
Haemopoietic stem cells can be collected from the baby’s umbilical cord blood. These stem cells can repair and replicate all types of blood cells: white, red and platelets.
Mesenchymal stem cells can be collected from the baby’s umbilical cord tissue and teeth. These stem cells are currently in use in over 1000 active clinical trials and can repair and replicate into a variety of tissue cells within bone, cartilage, muscle and fat.
Why should I store my baby’s stem cells?
In the UK alone, 3,000 people require a stem cell or bone marrow transplant every year. Here are just some of the benefits to saving your baby’s umbilical cord stem cells:
- Cord blood stem cells are currently being used as standard therapy for 85 conditions including leukemia, bone marrow cancer, anaemias and solid tumours
- Cord tissue stem cells are currently being used in over 1,000 active clinical trials for conditions such as strokes, heart disease and autism
- Your baby’s stem cells are a 100% DNA match for your baby and a potential match for other family members
- The storage process means they are immediately available at time of need
How are your baby’s stem cells collected?
The stem cell collection is a safe, non-invasive and painless process.
Following sign up, Future Health Biobank will assign you a specially trained and licenced healthcare professional, available 24/7 who will collect the sample on the day baby arrives. Customers will also be sent a special stem cell collection kit to take to the hospital on the day baby arrives.
When baby is born and the placenta is birthed, the hospital team will clamp and cut the umbilical cord. The placenta will then be passed to the phlebotomist who will perform the collection in a separate room. The phlebotomist will attempt to collect as much blood as possible; using a specialised collection kit which is provided by Future Health Biobank.
Following the collection, a medical courier will come and collect the collection kit directly from the hospital, bringing it back to our state-of-the-art laboratory in Nottingham.
How long can my baby’s stem cells be stored for?
Currently, stem cells can be stored for 29 years but as technology advances, this will continue to rise.
Who can use the stem cells?
The stem cells are stored privately for you and your family. They will only be released under your instruction.
I missed the opportunity to store my baby’s stem cells at birth. Is there another opportunity?
Yes, the stem cells found within the umbilical cord tissue can also be found in children’s milk teeth. Before the tooth falls out naturally, Future Health Biobank will send you a specialised stem cell collection kit which the tooth is placed inside. The kit is then transported back to the Future Health Biobank laboratory, using a specialist courier, for processing and storage.
Sixteen-year old Laith Abu Areesh suffers from Fanconi’s Anaemia, a condition that affects the bone marrow’s ability to make healthy blood cells, leading to growth deficiency, skeletal problems and issues with the kidneys and/or heart. The condition arises from a genetic defect in Laith’s DNA and he has been ill since it was diagnosed in early childhood. Doctors said his best chance of recovery was a bone marrow transplant but extensive searches over the years had failed to find a donor match.
New hope for Laith arrived in October 2010 with the birth of his baby sister. The family turned to Nottingham-based Future Health Biobank, the UK’s largest and Europe’s most accredited cord blood stem cell bank, who made arrangements to collect and store the sample. Tests revealed that his sister’s sample was not just a close match but a perfect match for Laith and contained sufficient stem cells to be used. The sample would therefore be ready and waiting for a time when Laith’s condition would be stable enough for his doctors to consider a transplant.
The time arrived and the sample was duly released from storage at the end of April 2011. The transplant of the stem cells went well and Laith continues to recover well.
Roger Dainty MBE, Future Health’s UK managing director said “Right from the start we have termed ourselves a family facility. The samples we hold could be a lifeline not only for the child they belong to but for their siblings – as in this case, but also parents or even grandparents.”
We’d like to wish Laith and his family all the best for the future, let’s hope it’s a healthy and happy one for him. Thank you to Future Health Biobank for this really interesting read on a topic Mini First Aid previously knew nothing about – it is fascinating what technology can do, especially when applied to saving lives.
Mini First Aid xx
If you’d like to find out more about Future Health Biobank you can email them on firstname.lastname@example.org or give them a call at their Nottingham base on 0115 967 7707.