Guy Sauvageau

Guy is both a physician, working directly with patients, and a scientific researcher, specializing in blood stem cells. His work in developing a method for expanding the number of stem cells found in cord blood will change the future of transplant medicine as we know it. He is Founding Scientific Director of the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC) and is a professor with the Université de Montréal Departement de Médecine.

Unlocking Cord Blood

At birth, the blood in the umbilical cord from a newborn contains something remarkable: a valuable store of stem cells. It’s why many parents donate a baby’s cord blood to public cord blood banks, which in turn can be used to save lives.

However, it’s not widely known that cord blood has a significant limitation. The amount of stem cells contained in one cord blood unit is quite small, containing only enough to treat a young child. So scientist Guy Sauvageau began asking questions, asking if there may be a way to multiply the stem cells found in cord blood so that cord blood could be used to treat adults.

His discovery of the HoxB4 gene and its ability to expand, or self-renew, stem cells in cord blood has been dramatic. In the near future, Guy expects that cord blood banks will provide a compatible donor for every person on the planet in need of transplantation. By being able to expand the number of stem cells in a cord blood unit, any adult requiring a transplant of compatible stem cells could potentially be treated with cord blood. The often life-threatening problem of waiting to find compatible adult donors would be eliminated — opening the door to new reatment possibilities.