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Baby's stem cells harvested for future use, say couple

31 August 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 324

A couple living in County Londonderry have spoken to the press about their decision to collect stem cells from their newborn baby's umbilical cord. The cells are to be stored for possible use later in his life, to help treat a number of diseases or conditions he might develop. The freezing of cord blood stem cells has been growing in popularity in recent years, and a number of companies are now offering this service in the UK for around £1000.

Liza Ackermann gave birth by Caesarean section to a baby boy on August 30, and stem cells from his umbilical cord were immediately collected and prepared for shipment to Cape Town, South Africa, where Liza and her husband Brahm are originally from and are soon to return.

To the parents, storing their child's stems cells gives him a type of insurance for the future. 'If, in future, this child should develop Parkinson's, or cancer, Alzheimer's or a heart defect, by that time technology would have progressed to such a level that you could then use these stems cells to fight or even cure these illnesses', said Liza Ackermann before the procedure took place.

Frank Barry, Professor of Cellular Therapy at the University of Galway, stated, 'we are seeing more evidence that stem cells can be therapeutically very useful and are likely to be widely used in the future to treat a broad variety of diseases. So, it may be very sensible to consider harvesting the cord blood and storing it until some time in the future when those stem cells could possibly be used.' These stem cells are abundant in a baby's umbilical cord.

However, medical opinion over the usefulness of the procedure for healthy babies is still divided. In a 2001 report, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists concluded that 'routine directed commercial cord blood collection and stem-cell storage cannot be recommended at the present time, because of the insufficient scientific base to support such practice'. Commercial cord blood banks have also attracted criticism because they store cells for possible future use by just one individual, whereas public banks aim to store cells that could potentially be used by anyone with a tissue type that matches one of the stored samples.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Mother's stem cell hopes for baby
BBC News Online |  30 August 2005
Mum makes history with stem cell harvesting
The Belfast Telegraph |  30 August 2005
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