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Leukaemia patient in remission after umbilical cord stem cell transplant

17 February 2014

By Dr Barbara Kramarz

Appeared in BioNews 742

A leukaemia patient in the UK, previously given up to 18 months to live, is now in remission after transplant of stem cells from two babies' umbilical cords.

David Pyne, who is 60, was forced to consider alternative options after chemotherapy and traditional blood transfusions failed. He was offered the therapy using donated blood from the umbilical cords of two newborns, one in America and one in France.

'Umbilical cord blood is very rich in stem cells, which being so immature have phenomenal regenerative powers. These were a great, alternative source of cells for David, in fact the only option, as after a worldwide search he had no other available donor', said Dr Mike Dennis, director of the haematology and transplant unit at The Christie hospital in Manchester where Pyne was treated.

Pyne is one of the first people in the UK to undergo an umbilical cord blood transplant, although the procedure is available on the NHS. Six similar transplants were performed at The Christie over the last year.

In the UK, pregnant mothers in cities including London, Birmingham and Leicester can donate their babies' umbilical cords and placentas to blood banks. Yet around 65,000 litres of cord blood were discarded last year, lowering the chances of meeting potential transplant requests.

However the Central Manchester University Hospitals Trust may open a further cord blood collection point. A spokeswoman told the Manchester Evening News: 'As part of our commitment to deliver a unique range of services to the north-west, Saint Mary's Hospital is currently assessing the feasibility of developing a cord blood collection centre here in Manchester'.

Cord blood can be frozen and stored after collection, to be used when needed.

Pyne is currently seen at the hospital as an outpatient on a weekly basis. He told ITV News he was 'truly amazed when my doctor at The Christie said we could use this option. To think two newborns saved an old man's life is just marvellous and it's given me more time with my own grandchildren'.


07 December 2016 - by Dr Loredana Guglielmi 
Researchers have developed a stem cell test that could rapidly predict how patients with acute myeloid leukaemia will respond to treatment...

12 November 2012 - by Dr Daniel Grimes 
A biotechnology company has come under fire after reporting success of its 'life-saving' stem cell based therapies ahead of a major stock sale, which occurred before investors became aware of news that a patient who had received its treatment had died....
06 June 2012 - by Holly Rogers 
Stem cells will be harvested and stored at an umbilical cord donor centre at the Birmingham Women's Hospital, UK, according to a BBC report...
06 February 2012 - by Dr Mary Yarwood 
The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Stem Cell Transplantation last week called for more facilities in the UK to increase the collection and banking of valuable cord blood....
18 July 2011 - by Dr Rebecca Robey 
Canadian scientists have identified a master stem cell that is capable of becoming any of the different types of cell found in blood. The discovery offers hope of alternative treatments for people who would normally require bone marrow transplants to replenish their blood supply, for example those with cancer or blood disorders...

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