Your Baby’s Stem Cells Could Save Your Life
Your baby’s stem cells could save your life – Written by Dr Karen Morton, Consultant Gynaecologist and Obstetrician and founder of Dr. Morton’s – The medical helpline©
Here in the UK, we just don’t think about harvesting stem cells at birth. In my experience, most parents-to-be don’t even know it’s possible. And yet, the benefits of this simple process could potentially be life changing.
As Founder of Dr Morton’s – the medical helpline©, I am proud to announce our partnership with Smart Cells International and tell you the incredible story of a patient of mine whose life they helped to save.
What does Smart Cells International do?
Smart Cells International was the first private stem cell banks to have come out of the UK, and is now one of the biggest. For the past 15 years, they have been storing stem cells collected from umbilical cord blood and the cord itself.
Founder & CEO | Smart Cells
The company was founded in 2000 by Shamshad Ahmed, after his role as Managing Director of a clinical trials company introduced him to the amazing potential of stem cells for the treatment of blood related disease. As a father of three himself, Shamshad is passionate about raising awareness among parents of the range of illnesses that stem cell therapy could treat.
So far they have stored over 40,000 cord blood samples from people in over 70 countries around the world. Smart Cells have their own processing and storage facility in the UK, and the company operates across Europe, Africa, Middle East, Asia and The Far East. They even have back up laboratories in Hong Kong, South Africa and Spain.
Would my baby need a blood test to get the stem cells?
No, the process doesn’t involve sticking needles in your baby’s body or your own. The umbilical cord becomes redundant after birth, and is simply thrown away in the majority of cases, so taking cells from it harms no one. There really couldn’t be a quicker or more convenient way to harvest stem cells.
What are stem cells?
Stem cells are immature cells which are incredibly special because they have the potential to transform into other types of cells. This means they can replace tissues in various body organs which have been injured by disease or trauma, and can also multiply and replace themselves.
The first successful stem cell transplant was performed in 1988 when a little boy with Fanconi’s Anaemia (a serious blood disorder) received stem cells collected from the cord blood of his newborn sister. Now, there are over 80 conditions where stem cell therapy now has a proven role and advances are being made in this field all the time. You might have heard about research recently published in the Lancet, which looks into using stem cells to treat multiple sclerosis.
Why I chose Smart Cells International as a partner:
I pride my business on its professionalism, security, integrity and ethical practice, and in my long association with Smart Cells International, I have witnessed these same attributes in them.
However, I also have a personal story to tell.
Four years ago, one of my patients developed a type of cancer called acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) while expecting her first baby at only 30 weeks’ gestation. It took a fortnight or so to diagnose, because the clinical picture was confusing, and at first we thought the illness must be a pregnancy complication, but a bone marrow sample confirmed the worst. AML was diagnosed, and there before us was a very ill woman, desperately needing chemotherapy, and still only 32 weeks’ pregnant. We made plans to urgently deliver her baby on a Saturday morning, and because the disease was making her break down her platelets (fragments in the blood essential for blood clotting), extra special blood arrangements were made. I can’t imagine how she and her family must have felt, contemplating this baby’s life without a mother.
Then all of a sudden, I had a thought:
“What better use of a baby’s stem cells than to be a donor to its mother to potentially save her life?”
I rang Smart Cells International and explained my patient’s desperate situation. Without hesitation their CEO and Founder, Shamshad Ahmed, arranged for a collection pack to be couriered to Guildford, and it arrived in the operating theatre just as I started the Caesarean section. This was all completely free of charge and exemplifies the generous, caring company that Smart Cells International is.
I am overjoyed to say that both mother and baby did very well.
Don’t wait: start thinking about stem cells early.
Collecting your baby’s stem cells at the time of birth is a once in a lifetime opportunity to capture a valuable resource that could be used in the treatment of serious illness or disease. They can be stored for years and years, so they could be providing you with a safeguard for your child and your family’s future.
Dr Karen Morton
MA MRCP FRCOG /GMC number 2454319
Dr Karen Morton is a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford. She qualified from Cambridge University in 1981 and has worked in Cambridge, Oxford, Queen Charlotte’s Maternity Hospital and the Chelsea Hospital for Women, and finally St Thomas’ Hospital, before being appointed a Consultant in 1991. Three years ago, she founded Dr Morton’s – the medical helpline which is a telephone and email GP and Gynaecology service. She believes passionately that medicine is the final frontier where simple communication technology is yet to be adopted. As the company’s research has shown that over 70% of GP problems could be solved on the phone, her dream is to provide great medical advice and treatment without the need to make an appointment to see a doctor face to face. Women’s health is key to the health of the whole family, so Karen is very pleased that Dr Morton’s offers access to gynaecology specialists as well as to great GPs.