BIOPHYLAXIS
Stem cells
  • 1988: The first transplant with cord blood stem cells takes place in France by Dr. Gluckman in a 5-year old boy suffering from Fanconi's Anaemia. The stem cells were from his sister's cord blood. Today the boy is alive and disease-free.
  • 1992: Dr. Harris decides to privately store his son's cord blood stem cells immediately after his birth.
  • 1993: Dr. Rubenstein establishes the first cord blood stem cell bank.
  • 1995: Dr. Wagner and Associates publishes a study which compared similar results between transplants of cord blood stem cells and bone marrow stem cells.
  • 1998: The first autologous (same donor and recipient) cord blood stem cell transplant takes place in a girl suffering from neuroblastoma and the transplant is a success.
  • 2001: The first study is published with cord blood stem cell transplants in adults.
  • TODAY:
    • Worldwide there are over 200 cord blood stem cell banks with hundreds of thousands of stored cord blood stem cell samples.
    • Tens of thousands of transplants have already taken place with cord blood stem cells.
    • More than 60 diseases are potentially treated with haematopoetic cord blood stem cells as standard therapy while more than 30 diseases are under clinical trials.
Cord blood is the blood that circulates between the placenta and umbilical cord during pregnancy. When the baby is born and the umbilical cord is cut, the umbilical cord retains a significant amount of cord blood, offering the opportunity for immediate collection. This blood is rich in stem cells.

Stem cells are the original, pluripotent master cells of all multicell organisms. These cells retain their ability to self-renew, through mitosis and to differentiate, creating in this way specialized cells, tissues, organs, and finally the body itself.

Cord blood stem cells are in the greatest percentage haemopoetic stem cells (HSCs) and are used in transplants in the fight against blood or immune system diseases. Besides the haematopoetic stem cells, the cord blood is a source of many progenitor cells which, under the right conditions, can develop different types of specialized cells (i.e. cardiac, hepatic, neural, pancreatic, etc.). In this way, the future use of this particular biological material is extended and applications have already begun in adults.

It is not by chance that many scientists describe cord blood as "biological gold" and that it is considered a form of biological insurance not only for the child itself but for its entire family.

What other sources of stem cells exist?
  • Embryos
  • Amniatic fluid
  • Adults, from different tissues, i.e. bone marrow, blood, fat tissue, skin, etc.
Some advantages of cord blood stem cells
  • Easily, painlessly and absolutely safe collection procedure
  • Low risk of viral contamination of cells since the collection takes place in a completely sterile environment directly after birth
  • 100% compatibility for the child in an autologous transplant
  • Reduced need for complete HLA compatibility in an heterologous transplant within the immediate family
  • Small risk for Graft versus Host Disease (GVHD) in heterologous transplants and no risk in autologous transplants
What are some of the parents' choices regarding their child's cord blood?
  • Donation to a public bank to be used by any suitable compatible recipient
  • Store in a private bank for self use
  • Donation to research
  • To discard
The decision is the parents' and is clearly a personal one. What is certain however is that uses of this precious biological material are expanding rapidly.

Why do families choose to store their child's cord blood stem cells?
  • 100% compatibility in autologous transplants
  • Immediate accessibility of the transplant resulting in saving valuable time whilst the disease progresses
  • Reduced need for complete HLA compatibility in an heterologous transplant within the immediate family
  • Easily, painlessly and absolutely safe collection procedure
  • Low risk of viral contamination of cells since the collection takes place in a completely sterile environment directly after birth
  • Small risk for Graft versus Host Disease (GVHD) in heterologous transplants and no risk in autologous transplants
Should parents store cord blood stem cells for each child?
Every human being is genetically unique. The same is true for cord blood stem cells. Every child should be safeguarded with its own 100%-compatible sample. In addition, separate storage for each child increases the possibilities for use from the immediate family since there are additional storage units available within the family. In the case of twins, the storage for each child separately is recommended as these are two separate individuals in addition to the fact that there is a larger number of stem cells available.

Are there cases in which the storage of stem cells is recommended?
  • Families with hereditary diseases for which stem cells are today applied
  • Families of a mixed nationality background
  • Families which will undergo adoption
  • Families expecting a child from in vitro fertilization with a donor