Johns Hopkins graduate students have invented a system to significantly boost the number of stem cells collected from a newborn's umbilical cord and placenta, so that many more patients with leukemia, lymphoma and other blood disorders can be treated with these valuable cells.
The prototype is still in the testing stage, but initial results are promising. The student inventors have obtained a provisional patent covering the technology and have formed a company, TheraCord LLC, to further develop the technology, which may someday be used widely in hospital maternity units. The students say the need for this system is obvious.
"Cord blood, collected from the umbilical cord and placenta after live birth, is the most viable source of stem cells, yet over 90 percent is uncollected and discarded," the team members wrote in a presentation of their project at the university's recent Biomedical Engineering Design Day. "One of the main reasons valuable cord blood is so frequently discarded is because no adequate collection method exists."
The students say their easy-to-use invention, called the CBx System, could remedy these shortcomings.
When a baby is born, a few families pay for private collection and storage of the child's cord blood, in case its stem cells are needed to treat a future illness. When families do not choose this option, the materials containing cord blood are generally thrown away as medical waste. But at the 180 hospitals affiliated with public cord blood banks, new mothers can donate cord blood so that its stem cells can be extracted and used to rebuild the immune systems of seriously ill patients, particularly those with blood cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.
According to the Johns Hopkins students, the current method of collecting these cells from cord blood doesn't work well because it relies strictly on gravity. The National Marrow Donor Program says about 50 percent of the units co
|Contact: Phil Sneiderman|
Johns Hopkins University