By: Editorial Team Reading time: 3 Minutes
From waste product to hope and healing
Stem cells from umbilical cord blood can develop into different types of cells. And that likely holds the key to healing some serious diseases. At VidaCord, parents can store the valuable material for future use.
After a child is born, the umbilical cord is no longer needed. With the emergence of stem cell therapies came the realization that it would be a shame to just throw it out. It contains between 60 and 200 milliliters of blood with millions of stem cells. By transplanting those stem cells, leukemia and other disorders of the hematopoietic system can be successfully treated today. Cord blood is easy to collect, especially as compared with the far more difficult transplantation of adult donors’ stem cells. Moreover, recipients tolerate it far better as a rule.
We freeze the cells in a controlled process and store them in cryotanks at minus 180 degrees.
Angel Alvarez, biologist and founder of the umbilical cord blood bank VidaCord in Madrid
Stem cells with the potential to repair
“These cells have the ability to reproduce rapidly and to differentiate – in other words, to produce various other types of cells,” explains Angel Alvarez, biologist and founder of the umbilical cord blood bank VidaCord in Madrid. “And that means they are potentially very useful for repairing organs and tissues. Medical science also expects to be able to use these stem cells for other therapeutic purposes in the future as well. Over a thousand clinical studies examining such therapies are currently in progress. They involve diseases such as diabetes and autism, among others.” The cord blood is collected after birth and turned over to a logistics firm that is approved to handle biological samples. It is transported, without cooling, immediately to VidaCord in the Spanish capital. There the different cell types are separated from one another.
Conservation with liquid nitrogen
“There is no need for the red blood cells or the platelets,” explains Angel Alvarez. “Only the nucleated cells, which also include the hematopoietic stem cells, are stored. We freeze them in a controlled process that cools the cells down to minus 140 degrees Celsius. Then we store them in cryotanks at minus 180 degrees.” Liquid nitrogen from Messer is used for cooling and storage. The shelf life of the stem cells exceeds the life expectancy of the child from whose umbilical cord the blood was collected. If that person suffers from leukemia later on – as a child or an adult – their own stem cells will be available for therapeutic purposes.
They can also be used for siblings. This applies to other diseases as well, for which new treatment methods will exist someday. According to the latest studies, stem cells from cord blood can even be reprogrammed into pluripotent stem cells. This would enable them to produce practically all types of cells. The cells can also be donated for other patients. “As a result of Spanish legislation, VidaCord is part of the national health system,” says Angel Alvarez. “The units stored in Madrid are available to everyone. For parents who wish to maintain exclusive rights to their children’s cord blood, we store the processed units in our own tanks in the United Kingdom.”
VidaCord was founded in Madrid in 2006 as the first private umbilical cord blood bank in Spain. The blood is processed in the company’s own laboratory. As of the fall of 2021, the company’s cryogenic tanks held more than 30,000 stem cell units. They also store umbilical cord tissue. VidaCord works together with the Chair of Genomics and Proteomics of Complutense University of Madrid and has partnership agreements with other universities.