Breaking down barriers for World Cord Blood Day

 In Stem Cell News

Today marks World Cord Blood Day (#WCBD17). Here at Smart Cells, we have chosen to support the day by releasing information and stats on cord blood transplants and its effects across our digital platforms.

Education around the uses of collected cord blood is key; stats from a YouGov survey* in September 2014 showed that almost 1 in 3 parents did not know that they could store their child’s cord blood and tissue, and 78% felt that more should be done to educate them about storing cord blood and tissue. In contrast to these stats, more than 35,000 cord blood transplants have been undertaken worldwide to treat more than 80 life-threatening or debilitating conditions including leukaemia, lymphoma and sickle cell anaemia, yet cord blood is usually thrown away as clinical waste.

That’s why education and awareness is the focus of World Cord Blood Day 2017, and this is also why we, as the UK’s first private cord blood bank, have chosen to support the day.

Increasing Awareness

There have been more than 700,000 cord blood collections around the word and approximately 50,000 hematopoietic stem cells transplants are undertaken per year with around 400-500 of these transplants are in Europe. We have released 19 samples for clinical use, more than any other private cord blood company in the UK. These have been shipped to 6 countries around the world.

Recently with the evolution of regenerative medicine, cord blood has been used in clinical trials to treat conditions that have significant worldwide impact for example neurological, endocrinological, and cardiological disease.

In the run up to World Cord Blood Day, we have run awareness campaigns featuring information in word, graphic and video form to help dispel the myths surrounding cord blood collection and stem cell research and clinical trials. The success of this campaign is clear to see: the infographic and video have been shared digitally by both parental influencers across blogs and social media as well as popular website Netmums. In addition to this, we have also met with expectant parental influencers at events such as the Baby Show Olympia. These influencers have gone on to share the information they’ve learned with their engaged following of parents.

Transplants

Since our first transplant in 2005, we have shared examples of successful transplants on our site in a bid to increase awareness and engage a potential base of parents who may benefit from the service in future. These transplants have ranged from allogenic, a 2.5 year old sibling received treatment using stem cells from cord blood for sickle cell disease in March 2015 in New Delhi, to autologous – a 7 year old with cerebral palsy received a transplant using their own cord blood in North Carolina in June 2017.

One of Smart Cells’ early successes was the treatment of three year old Sasha Browne, believed to be the first British child to be infused with her own umbilical cord blood cells. Sasha’s family contacted Smart Cells’ Dubai office to store her umbilical cord blood as an “insurance policy” not knowing that she would be diagnosed with cerebral palsy. As a result of her stem cell infusion, Sasha’s parents have recognised a general improvement in her motor skills as well as her vision and cognitive ability.

Smart Cells around the world

Dubai is not our only office outside of the UK. Our Head Office and laboratory (with their own processing and storage facility) is based in the UK, situated just 3 miles from Heathrow Airport so that international samples can also be processed as quickly as possible. We also have offices in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Far East. There are additional partner laboratories in Spain, South Africa and Hong Kong as well as a disaster recovery unit in the UK.

Closer to home, we recently announced an association with the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust in September 2017 meaning maternity patients in St James’s University Hospital, Leeds General Infirmary and Wharfedale Hospital are now provided with information on collecting and storing their baby’s cord blood.

Shamshad Ahmed, CEO at Smart Cells, stated:

“Supporting World Cord Blood Day is of huge importance to us. We recognise that not only are few parents are aware that they have the option to collect and store cord blood for their children, but that many are also unaware of just how crucial the opportunity to use these stem cells to treat life-threatening conditions in future can be. Cord blood is painless and risk free to collect for both the mother and baby.

“We see storing cord blood to be a form of health insurance for not only one child, but their siblings too. Our released samples of cord blood have been used in successful transplants for children and their siblings for conditions including cerebral palsy, thalassemia, leukaemia and more. In addition to this, the research into the stem cells collected from cord blood is spiralling: we are far from understanding the full potential that cord blood has in new areas of regenerative medicine. To help this progress, awareness and education around this important medical resource is key.”

* YouGov surveyed 4,085 UK 2,363 parents and 988 UK parents with children under 18 years between 26th – 29th September 2014.

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