umbilical cord blood

14
Jul 2016
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Dr. John Dick

Scientists find genetic switch to increase supply of stem cells from cord blood

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International stem cell scientists, led in Canada by Dr. John Dick and in the Netherlands by Dr. Gerald de Haan, have found the switch to harness the power of cord blood and potentially increase the supply of stem cells for cancer patients needing transplants.…

International stem cell scientists, led in Canada by Dr. John Dick and in the Netherlands by Dr. Gerald de Haan, have found the switch to harness the power of cord blood and potentially increase the supply of stem cells for cancer patients needing transplants.

The findings, published today in Cell Stem Cell, could provide a way to make more stem cells from cord blood, which is increasingly available through public cord blood banking.

“Stem cells are rare in cord blood and often there are not enough present in a typical collection to be useful for human transplantation,” says Dr. Dick, Senior Scientist, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network (UHN), in a media release.

“Our discovery shows a method that could be harnessed over the long term into a clinical therapy and we could take advantage of cord blood being collected in various public banks that are now growing across the country.”

The Dick-de Haan teams found that when a stem cell divides it makes progenitor cells that retain key properties of being able to develop into any one of the 10 mature blood cell types, but they have lost the stem cell’s key ability to self-renew.

Working with mice and human models of blood development, the teams identified microRNA (mirR-125a), a genetic switch that is normally on in stem cells and controls self-renewal, gets switched off in the progenitor cells.

“Our work shows that if we artificially throw the switch on in those downstream cells, we can endow them with stemness and they basically become stem cells and can be maintained over the long term,” says Dr. Dick.

This is just the latest discovery by Dr. Dick. He isolated a human blood stem cell in its purest form and was the first to identify cancer stem cells in leukemia and colon cancer.

Dr. de Haan is Scientific Co-Director, European Institute for the Biology of Ageing, University Medical Centre Groningen, the Netherlands.

Dr. Dick talks about their research at here.

 

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11
May 2016
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Stem Cells 101 concludes successful run with Ottawa event

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Dr. Bill Stanford addresses the audience at  Tuesday’s Stem Cells 101 event in Ottawa   (CBC Photo)

Across Ontario, hundreds of people have a stronger appreciation of stem cells, thanks to the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine’s (OIRM) Stem Cell 101 — The Promise and Potential.…

Dr. Bill Stanford at Stem Cells 101 (CBC Photo)

Dr. Bill Stanford addresses the audience at  Tuesday’s Stem Cells 101 event in Ottawa   (CBC Photo)

Across Ontario, hundreds of people have a stronger appreciation of stem cells, thanks to the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine’s (OIRM) Stem Cell 101 — The Promise and Potential.

The spring lecture series — featuring world-leading scientists explaining the field, talking about their research and discussing the ethical issues involved — concluded last night in Ottawa where an audience of about 100 listened, asked thoughtful questions and exchanged ideas with the experts.

Co-sponsored by the University of Ottawa and The Ottawa Hospital, Tuesday’s event followed similar free-to-the-public sessions in London, Hamilton and Toronto held in partnership with Western University, McMaster University and SickKids Hospital, respectively.

At each event, local scientists addressed such questions as: “What is a stem cell?”  “What’s new in stem cell research?” “What kinds of treatments are using stem cells today?”  “What is stem cell tourism?”

At last night’s session, Dr. Bill Stanford, a senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital, told the audience how he left an uncertain regulatory environment in the United States, where President George W. Bush had imposed a ban on federal funding for research on new embryonic stem cell lines, to come to work in Canada. President Barack Obama lifted the ban, but Dr. Stanford chose to stay in Ottawa, he told CBC News, because “here in Ottawa people work together instead of working by themselves and that makes things go much faster and better.”

As part of his discussion on ethics, Dr Jeff Blackmer, Vice-President of Medical Professionalism at the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), focused on private versus public banking of umbilical cord blood, which provides a rich and non-controversial supply of stem cells for transplant.  He noted that private cord blood banks, which charge significant collection fees and annual storage fees, can contain an implied messages in their advertising that parents who don’t use their services are letting their children down.  While such a decision is a personal one, he noted that public cord blood banking reflects the spirit of universal health care. Canada’s Cord Blood Bank now operates in four cities.

Asked about when new therapies will make it to the clinic, The Ottawa Hospital’s Dr. Harry Atkins said that while the field is progressing rapidly, significant technological challenges remain.  That makes it difficult to predict whether a new treatment might become available, he said, noting that in some cases “it could be two years, it could be a decade.”

(Note: The Spring edition of our Cellections newsletter features some of the leading-edge stem cell research underway in Ottawa. Subscribe here, by clicking on “Newsletter.”)

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09
May 2016
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Dr. Heidi Elmoazzen

Cord Blood Bank puts priority on high-quality inventory

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Q&A with Dr. Heidi Elmoazzen 

One thousand Canadians need a stem cell donation on any given day, according to Canadian Blood Services (CBS). 

Q&A with Dr. Heidi Elmoazzen 

One thousand Canadians need a stem cell donation on any given day, according to Canadian Blood Services (CBS).  About 250 usually can find a match in their own family. The other 750 must look elsewhere. For years, CBS has operated its OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network to find and match volunteer donors to patients. Last year, CBS added to the much needed supply of donor stems cells by officially launching its Cord Blood Bank where new mothers can donate umbilical cord blood — a plentiful source of stem cells that are more easily matched than adult stem cells.  The bank is supported by nine provinces and the three territories (Québec has its own cord blood bank and registry).  Five collection sites now operate in four cities. Dr. Heidi Elmoazzen is the Director of the Cord Blood Bank.

Q: The official launch was last year, but how long has the national public cord blood bank been operating?

A: We started collecting in Ottawa in 2013, then rolled out to Brampton in 2014. We started collections in Edmonton and Vancouver in 2015.  We did the official launch in June of 2015 to say, “We’re open.”

Q: Canada was the last G7 country to establish a public cord blood bank. Why were we so late to the party?

A: Part of it is just the way funding is structured.  We needed agreement from the provinces and territories.  But there are actually advantages of us coming late to the party.  We’ve been able to learn from other cord blood banks and we’re fortunate to now be in a position where we’ve set up one of the best in the world in terms of quality of inventory.

Q: What stage are you at now?

A: Our biggest goal is building up an inventory that’s reflective of the unique population we have here in Canada. We have a lot of ethnic groups that you don’t find in other parts of the world, including our Aboriginal First Nations, Métis and Inuit populations. We have a lot of mixed race patients here. It’s building up that inventory that reflects that unique population. And we’re really going for quality units — large units with lots of stem cells in them so there are enough stem cells for a transplant. As you can appreciate, we need an inventory of a certain size before we see uptake. We’re in that phase now.  We currently have 1,145 units listed and available to Canadian and international transplant centres.  We’ve had inquiries, but nothing has been shipped out yet. So that’s our next big milestone.  I’m expecting we will probably see that soon.

Q: So, for example, a Canadian patient with a blood-based cancer who is looking for a stem cell transplant, they would look at what your bank has available and look internationally as well?

A: It goes through our OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network, where we search all the adult donors and cord blood units in Canada as well as internationally. We have access to over 27 million adult donors around the world. In Canada there are 345,000 adult donors.  And then you have 684,000 publicly banked (cord blood) units, with our own units in there as well.

Q: Are most people aware that the public bank is there and there’s an option to donate cord blood?

A: There are always opportunities to increase awareness. We really try to make moms who are delivering at one of our designated collection hospitals aware. We have conversations with all of the physicians who have delivering rights at those hospitals. We try to do outreach so that moms do know this is available to them.

Q: What’s their reaction been?

A: It has been great. It’s a very easy sell to mothers because they know the alternative is the cord blood will be discarded as medical waste.  We don’t get push-back.

Q: The collection service is only available in four centres. What happens if you don’t happen to live in Ottawa, Brampton, Edmonton and Vancouver?

A: Unfortunately, then you can’t participate in the public bank.  But it’s important to realize these units are available to anyone in Canada and around the world who needs them. We selectively chose the cities we are in and what hospitals we partner with. We wanted large urban centres with a large ethnic diversity. We wanted hospitals that had at least 4,000 births (per year) with a minimum 20% ethnic diversity.  We’re trying to build a bank that reflects the ethnic diversity in Canada.

Q: Will there be more collection centres opening?

A: We’re always looking at whether we need to do that. At this time there are no plans to open any more sites.

Q: The total price tag for the bank is $48 million, with $12.5 million raised in a fundraising campaign and the rest coming from the provinces and territories. Why did one-quarter of the funds come from fundraising?

A: It was to show the governments that we had skin in the game and that Canadian Blood Services was committed to this.

Q: Does this save money? If a Canadian gets a stem cell transplant from here in Canada, does that save money compared to going to Europe to have the stem cells harvested and shipped over here?

A: Absolutely. It costs about $40,000 when we use either an adult donor or a cord blood unit from overseas. It’s a huge cost savings to the health care system, especially when you’re talking about adults because they’re using two cord blood units per transplant.  The fact that these are available through our transplant centres at no cost represents a huge savings.

Q: Can the cord blood also be used for research?

A: Yes; we have a cord blood for research program.  Moms who donate in Ottawa can indicate on their permission to collect form that in the event that their baby’s cord blood is not bankable it can go to research. We make those research units available to scientists across Canada.  We have shipped out hundreds of units for research purposes.  There’s been a big uptake because it’s such a valuable resource.

(For more information on the Cord Blood Bank, click here.)

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29
Jun 2015
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National public cord-blood bank officially launched

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Canadian Blood Services (CBS) has officially launched the national public cord-blood bank.

“This is a significant achievement for the Canadian health care system,” Dr.

Canadian Blood Services (CBS) has officially launched the national public cord-blood bank.

“This is a significant achievement for the Canadian health care system,” Dr. Graham Sher, CBS Chief Executive Officer, said in a press release. “Through our hospital partners, we are able to provide expectant mothers the opportunity to donate to a national public cord blood bank; increasing the chances for patients who need a stem cell transplant to find a match.”

As we reported in several articles here, the cord blood stored in the bank will be available to patients across the country who are unable to find donors among their families or donor lists. Cord blood cells are  a rich source of stem cells, which can be transplanted to treat several diseases, such as leukemia and lymphoma. With only about 25% of patients able to find a suitable donor among family members, most patients need help from an unrelated donor.

CBS now has five collection sites in four cities: Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa and Brampton, Ont. Two facilities, one in Edmonton and the other in Ottawa, will test, process and freeze individual units of cord blood, while collections in Vancouver and Brampton will help increase the possibility of patients from different ethnic backgrounds — including Asians, Aboriginal People and multi-ethnic people — finding a match.

“Some of the mixed racial groups are the hardest to find a match for,” Dr. Jan Christilaw, President of BC Women’s Hospital, told the CTV News. “So the more diverse the bank is, the better the chance that if you really need cord blood stem cells for any particular reason, you’ll be able to find it.”

CBS has raised $12.5 million of the $48-million cost of the program for the next eight years, with contributions also coming from provincial and territorial governments (Quebec excluded as it has its own public cord blood bank).

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08
Apr 2014
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full-calgary-skyline

Calgary looks ahead to performing transplants

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The National Public Cord Blood Bank will have an impact in cities beyond those doing the collection.

The first cord blood collecting facility was opened in September 2013 in Ottawa, followed by Brampton, Edmonton and Vancouver, where a collection facility was launched in January at BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre.…

The National Public Cord Blood Bank will have an impact in cities beyond those doing the collection.

The first cord blood collecting facility was opened in September 2013 in Ottawa, followed by Brampton, Edmonton and Vancouver, where a collection facility was launched in January at BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre.

The Calgary Herald reported yesterday that the collection of umbilical cord blood will benefit the Southern Alberta city’s hospitals making it possible to perform stem cell transplants at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and the Tom Baker Cancer Centre later this year.

“There’s a good chance we may find donors for Canadian children in the Canadian cord bank,” says Dr. Victor Lewis, a pediatric oncologist at the Alberta Children’s Hospital.

Cord blood cells are a rich source of stem cells, which can be transplanted to treat diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma, which account for almost half of all cancers occurring in children between the ages of 0 and 14.

The existence of a national bank will reduce the costs of importing cord blood units from abroad and will increase the chances of finding a better match for Canadians in need of a transplant.

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13
Jan 2014
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CordBlood-home logo

Save cord blood, save lives

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In September, when the first public umbilical cord blood bank opened in Ottawa, Canada joined — albeit last — the rest of the G8 countries to have a national collection program.…

In September, when the first public umbilical cord blood bank opened in Ottawa, Canada joined — albeit last — the rest of the G8 countries to have a national collection program.

Things have been rolling along since then.

On Friday, the BC Women’s Hospital & Health Centre in Vancouver was named the fourth collection site across the country, with Brampton and Edmonton designated in October and November respectively. “We are honoured to have BC Women’s Hospital & Health Centre as one of our collection hospitals,” Dr. Graham Sher, Chief Executive Officer at Canadian Blood Services, which manages the public bank, said in a media release. CBS expects to collect about 18,000 cord blood units over the next six years.

Healthy women 18 years older who are delivering at the Vancouver hospital can soon voluntarily donate their baby’s cord blood during a testing period that will last until mid-year. The collection site officially launches later this year.

The donated cord blood will be available to patients unable to find donors among their families or donor lists. Cord blood cells are a rich source of stem cells, which can be transplanted to treat diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma.

With Vancouver being such an ethnically diverse city, the newly created collection facility will increase the possibility of patients from different ethnical backgrounds — including Asians, Aboriginal People and multi-ethnic people — finding a match.

“Finding a bone marrow match was more of a problem for me because I’m black” Hector Walker, who received his bone marrow transplant from cord blood cells in 2010, told the Vancouver Sun. “Even my brother wasn’t a match.

“Life is so unpredictable. People should understand they can save someone’s life by doing this,” he said.

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02
Oct 2013
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Klaassen CBC Screen Capture

Cord blood: Now Canada can bank on it

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Bad news, they say, travels fast. But the announcement this week that Canada now has a national public cord blood bank up and running (or, more appropriately, taking its first baby steps) shows that good news is no slowpoke.…

Bad news, they say, travels fast. But the announcement this week that Canada now has a national public cord blood bank up and running (or, more appropriately, taking its first baby steps) shows that good news is no slowpoke.

Mothers delivering at two Ottawa Hospital campuses now have the option of depositing their babies’ umbilical cord blood into the National Public Cord Blood Bank. It can then be withdrawn to save the lives of some of the 1,000 Canadians who, at any given time, need an unrelated stem cell match to treat diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma, thalassemia, sickle cell anemia and TaySachs.

Dr. Robert Klaassen, left, a hematologist/oncologist at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, explained to CBC News that having a national cord blood bank will shorten wait times and increase the pool of potential matches: “The main problem we have is that many patients, when they need a bone marrow transplant, don’t have a sibling to match to so we have to start looking for unrelated matches.”

Canada, the country where stem cells were discovered, has been slow off the mark with this. Postmedia newspapers pointed out that until this week ours was the only G8 country without a national cord blood bank.

While there currently are three other regional cord blood banks, (Héma-Québec, Alberta and Victoria Angel) and several private operations, Canadian patients needing stem cell transplants often have had to be treated with supplies purchased from other countries – at a cost to the health care system of about $42,000 per unit.

According to Canadian Blood Services (CBS), which manages the national bank, a Made In Canada cord blood unit will be substantially less than half that amount.

CBS will roll out three more collections sites in Brampton, Edmonton and Vancouver by mid-2014 and expects to collect 18,000 donated cord blood units over the next six years. Those cities were selected because of their high birth rates and diverse ethnic populations, which will boost the range of possible matches.

As Sue Smith, CBS Executive Director of Stem Cells, told CTV News, “It’s very easy; any woman over the age of 18, as long as they have had a healthy birth and it’s beyond 34 weeks gestation, [can donate].”

The National Cord Blood Bank is a $48-million enterprise with provincial and territorial ministries of health (except Québec) investing the lion’s share while CBS leads a $12.5-million fundraising campaign for the rest. As of this week they have raised more than half that amount.

So, more lives will be saved and significant cost savings realized. If that’s not good news, what is?

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