This significant milestone for the private cord blood storage industry highlights the advances being made in stem cell research and puts a spotlight on a service that many parents-to-be are still unaware of.
Smart Cells was the UK’s first private cord blood company and in its 16 years since the company was founded, has released samples to patients all over the world to treat a variety of conditions including Cerebral Palsy, Thalassemia, Leukaemia and HSV Encephalitis.
Cord blood samples released to date
The potential for stem cells to replace damaged cells and tissues is an exciting one and stem cells are currently being used to treat more than 80 diseases.
“The release of these samples signifies something very important; that stem cell technology is one of the most exciting areas of science in our time. We have released more samples in the last four years than in the first 10, which says that this evolving area of medical science is making big steps in a positive direction.”
Smart Cells Founder and CEO Shamshad Ahmed
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Cerebral palsy is the general term for a number of neurological conditions that affect movement and co-ordination. Neurological conditions are caused by problems in the brain and nervous system.
Specifically, cerebral palsy is caused by a problem in the parts of the brain responsible for controlling muscles. The condition can occur if the brain develops abnormally or is damaged before, during or shortly after birth.
It is estimated that 1 in 400 people in the UK is affected by cerebral palsy. (1)
The leukaemias are a group of cancers of the blood and bone marrow. Broadly speaking, these diseases can be classified as acute or chronic. Some leukaemias, particularly in the acute category, can progresses rapidly and aggressively and thus requires prompt treatment, whereas others are slower to progress.
The leukaemias are classified according to the cell type and chromosomal problems associated with the cancer.
Leukaemia incidence is strongly related to age, with the highest incidence rates being in older men and women. In the UK, around 9,000 people are diagnosed each year with leukaemia. (3)
Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) is a birth injury that describes oxygen starvation that happens to the infant brain. There can be severe neurological impairment and damage to other organs as a result. (5)
Thalassaemia is an inherited condition, which means it can be passed on from parents to children. It’s not known exactly what causes the genetic mutations associated with thalassaemia. However, it’s likely they’ve they have persisted in certain areas of the world as carriers of the condition (both alpha and beta thalassaemia) are protected against malaria.
This is why thalassaemia and other related genetic blood disorders, such as sickle cell anaemia, are more common in parts of the world where malaria is a problem, including certain Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Cyprus and Italy, the Middle East, Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. (2)
Infantile (HSV) Encephalitis is an uncommon but serious condition caused by a virus. This can lead to inflammation and damage to the brain. (4)
Severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) is the name given to a group of rare inherited disorders which cause severe abnormalities of the immune system.
This happens when white blood cells, responsible for fighting infection, are missing or working poorly. Their absence or poor function results in serious and often life threatening infections. (6)
Sickle cell anaemia is a serious inherited blood disorder where the red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body, develop abnormally.
The disorder mainly affects people of African, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, Eastern Mediterranean and Asian origin. In the UK, sickle cell disorders are most commonly seen in African and Caribbean people. (7)
|Sample Release Date||Medical Condition||Recipient Relationship||Recipient Age||Unit Volume||Medical Centre||Country|
|Nov 2005||Thalassemia||Allogeneic (Sibling)||4 Years||144ml||Mount Vernon Hospital||Singapore|
|Nov 2006||Leukaemia||Allogeneic (Sibling)||Restricted||Restricted||Stem Cells and Immunology Department, Birmingham||UK|
|Feb 2007||Thalassemia||Allogeneic (Sibling)||7 Years||76ml||Kinderlink der Tu Munchen||Germany|
|Aug 2009||Cerebral Palsy||Autologous (Self)||3 Years||51ml||Duke University, North Carolina||USA|
|Jan 2010||Cerebral Palsy||Autologous (Self)||3 Years||81ml||Duke University, North Carolina||USA|
|April 2011||Acute Lymphomatic Leukaemia||Allogeneic (Sibling)||8 Years||130ml||Royal Marsden Hospital||UK|
|Oct2013||Thalassemia||Allogeneic (Sibling)||5 Years||58ml||Catherine Lewis Centre, Hammersmith||UK|
|Jan 2014||Leukaemia||Allogeneic (Sibling)||4 Years||71ml||Medizinische Hochschule, Hanover||Germany|
|May 2014||Cerebral Palsy||Autologous (Self)||1 Year||68ml||Duke University, North Carolina||USA|
|June 2014||HSV Encephalitis & NMDA Receptor Antibody Virus||Autologous (Self)||2 Years||57ml||Duke University, North Carolina||USA|
|Aug 2014||Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)||Autologous (Self)||3 Months||39ml||Duke University, North Carolina||USA|
|Feb 2015||Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)||Autologous (Self)||6 Months||53ml||Duke University, North Carolina||USA|
|March 2015||Severe Combined Immune Deficiency||Allogeneic (Sibling)||3 Months||74ml||Duke University, North Carolina||USA|
|March 2015||Sickle Cell Disease||Allogeneic (Sibling)||2.5 Years||57ml||BLK Hospital, New Delhi||India|
|Nov 2015||Thalassemia||Allogeneic (Sibling)||12 Years||87ml||Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC||USA|
|Mar 2016||Cerebral Palsy||Allogeneic (Sibling)||6 Years||101ml||Duke University, North Carolina||USA|
|April 2017||Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (*1)||N/A Identical Twin Girls||Restricted||125ml||Bambin Gesu Childrens’ Hospital, Rome||Italy|
(*1) Cord blood unit released by SCI used to help define the origin of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in twins
A unit of cord blood has recently been released by SCI to the Bambin Gesu Childrens’ Hospital in Rome where twin girls both suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukaemia have been treated. As leukaemia is known to be associated with certain problems in chromosomes, the hospital requested that the umbilical cord blood unit which contains cord blood from both twins be sent for detailed chromosomal analysis. It is recognized that acute lymphoblastic leukemia developing in twins under the first year of age is likely to be linked at least in part, to a chromosomal mutation that occurred while the babies were developing in utero.
Although, this cord blood unit was originally banked for potential future therapeutic use, the parents and clinical team looking after the children, felt that analysis of the blood would provide a unique and invaluable opportunity to define the key chromosomal abnormality in detail. This in turn, will assist in the prognostic assessment and ongoing treatment of the children.
Although this was an not typical use of cord blood, SCI were keen and very happy to assist the parents and clinical team in Rome on behalf of the twins.
*Data correct as of February 2016.
(4) Ref http://dx.doi.org/10.1016%2Fj.ebcr.2015.07.005
(5) http://www.birthinjuryguide.org/birth-injury/types/ & http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/eutils/elink.fcgi?dbfrom=pubmed&retmode=ref&cmd=prlinks&id=24388332