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Making Life-Saving Procedures Routine
CHORI Scientists Win Accolades for Study Identifying Placenta as a Novel Source of Stem Cells

CHORI is pleased to announce that Vladimir Serikov, MD PhD, and Frans Kuypers, PhD, and their colleagues in CHORI's Center for Sickle Cell Disease and Thalassemia, have won an award for their publication last year on the potential for using women's placentas, discarded after normal birthing, as a novel source of stem cells to cure blood-related diseases such as leukemia, sickle cell disease, and thalassemia.

"I think the paper was selected because of its potential impact in the clinical setting," says Dr. Kuypers. "The technology has the potential to help a huge number of people who currently can't undergo stem cell transplantation because they can't find a donor."

The Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine Best Paper Award is based on a high threshold of excellence, including the significance of the research presented in the paper, its originality, importance, and projected impact, as well as the quality of the experimental design and data. Drs. Serikov, Kuypers and their colleagues' paper excelled in all these areas, confirming not only the existence of stem cells in placenta and the ability to harvest them for use, but also the ability to store the placenta now for future use later.

"We already know that bone marrow transplantation using cord blood derived stem cells works. We've cured over 100 children since 1997 through our own Blood and Marrow Transplant Program alone using stem cell transplantation," says Dr. Kuypers.
"The problem comes down to there simply not being a large enough supply of stem cells for every patient who needs them."
Hematopoietic stem cells are cells that live in your bone marrow and are programmed to become blood cells - either red or white blood cells, or platelets.

"The stem cells in your bone marrow make cells on a continuous basis, creating billions of new cells every moment of every day," Dr. Kuypers explains. "If you can't do it properly, such as with leukemia, or you simply don't make enough, as with anemia, or if for some reason the factory that produces these cells every minute of the day doesn't function properly, you have to do something about it."
Enter bone marrow transplantation. This procedure is used for patients with blood cancers or blood diseases such as sickle cell disease or thalassemia, and involves using chemotherapy or radiation treatment to kill the bone marrow stem cells so that they can be replaced with new stem cells that will function properly.

One of the challenges with bone marrow transplantation, however, is that the new stem cells produce all three kinds of blood cells, including white blood cells, which help fight disease in the body by attacking any cells they don't recognize as self.

"If you are going to make cells in your bone marrow that do not recognize the rest of you as self, you could have problem," says Dr. Kuypers. "In medical terms, this is called Graft Versus Host Disease, and it means that the goal with stem cell transplantation is to try to find a way to generate new cells that are healthy and function properly but that still recognize you as self. So you have to find a donor that matches well with the patient who needs the cells."

Read More About Life-Saving Stem Cells from Placenta!

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011 8:19 AM

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