News | Lazaron | Southern Africa's oldest Stem Cell Storage Bank

By: Lazaron  11-11-2011

The largest stem cell transplant unit in South Africa was launched at a Pretoria hospital this week.

Speaking after the official launch on Wednesday night, Jackie Thomson – who heads up the Albert Alberts Haemopoitic Stem Cell Transplant Unit at the Netcare Pretoria East Hospital – said many potential patients did not realize that transplants could be undertaken in South Africa and therefore travelled abroad for treatment.

Thomson said the hospital’s unit completes over 80 transplants annually, more than any other country on the continent.

Haemopoitic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is the transplantation of blood stem cells from blood or bone marrow in the case of bone marrow transplantation.

It is used for the treatment of diseases of the blood, bone marrow and certain cancers.

Thomson is assisted by haematologist David Brittain and paediatric oncologist Dr David Reynders.

The newly launched facility has 30 single private rooms, all in an isolation ward, vital to the protection of transplant patients whose immune systems are weak after transplantation. The unit is supported by a stem cell laboratory and cryopreservation facility.

“Our staff and doctors are among the best in the field and we are the only unit that offers treatment to both children and adults,” said Thomson.

“We are a one-of-a-kind centre of excellence for the whole of the southern African region and treat patients from right around the sub-continent.”

She said the unit was benchmarked against similar centres around the world, and reported to the European Group for Blood and Marrow Transplantation and the Centre for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research.

“The unit is complying with international standards every step of the way including with donor care, stem cell manipulation and stem cell transplant.

The hospital said it did as many transplants as some of the larger centres in Europe, which was “remarkable” considering that it had been performing them for only four years.

The new facility would improve its capacity.

Thomson said the majority of transplants used stem cells from unrelated donors, but a few were from relatives.

Most were from international donors from donor registries.

Netcare chief executive officer Richard Friedland said in four years Thomson and her team had made significant advances.

“It has become a life saving procedure for those individuals who have had the misfortune to contract diseases such as leukemia and other blood disorders,” he said.

“High patient occupancy rates at this centre are showing that there is a great need for it in Gauteng, and a demand for its services.” – Sapa

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A new Duke study has found that umbilical cord blood can be an effective substitute for bone marrow in patients requiring transplantation but who don’t have a matched bone marrow donor.

Bone marrow transplants can be a life-saving treatment option for patients battling cancer, blood disorders and other life-threatening conditions.

Researchers from Duke University Medical Center followed three-hundred-fourteen children for whom bone marrow transplantation was needed but who didn’t have a matched marrow donor.

The patients were treated with unrelated and mis-matched cord blood donor units. These units were matched at four of six HLA typing.

Only 10 percent of the patients failed to accept the transplants. Fewer than 15 percent had serious complications.

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No doubt you have heard something about how umbilical cord blood stem cells are being used to turn the tables on many diseases and medical conditions. But did you know that in pure form in small quantities they are making a huge impact in children with cerebral palsy and traumatic brain injury (TBI)? In this very brief excerpt from a university lecture, renown medical pioneer and stem cell expert David Steenblock discusses all this and more, drawing on data obtained from his namesake nonprofit research institute located in southern California. Welcome to “Umbilical Cord Stem Cell Therapy 101″!

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Diagnosed at birth with aplastic anemia, Titus Chang was saved by a cord blood transplant from his newborn brother.

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Cape Town – Africa’s first human cord blood stem cell bank will be open for business in Cape Town from September 1 this year, according to a media statement from Lazaron Biotechnologies on Sunday.

From September, parents will be able to “bank” umbilical cord blood collected from their new born children locally and from this week, investors can purchase shares in the company which has established this technology in South Africa.

Said the statement: “A newborn child’s stem cells which are collected and then frozen and stored at the bank can in terms of current medical technology be used later in the treatment of over 40 diseases.

“This includes a wide range of cancers, genetic diseases, immune system deficiencies and blood disorders.”

In addition, cord blood collected from a newborn has a one in four chance of matching with the cellular makeup of siblings, providing relief in these cases.

Lazaron Biotechnologies (SA) Ltd, a company under the John Daniel Group, was established two years ago to focus on the development, discovery and commercialisation of regenerative cell and medicine technology.


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Seoul – A South Korean woman paralysed for 20 years is walking again after scientists say they repaired her damaged spine using stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood.

Hwang Mi-Soon, 37, had been bedridden since damaging her back in an accident two  decades ago.

Last week her eyes glistened with tears as she walked again with the help of a walking frame at a press conference where South Korea researchers went public for the first time with the results of their stem cell therapy.

They said it was the world’s first published case in which a patient with spinal cord injuries had been successfully treated with stem cells from umbilical cord blood.

Though they cautioned that more research was needed and verification from international experts was required, the South Korean researchers said Hwang’s case could signal a leap forward in the treatment of spinal cord injuries.

The use of stem cells from cord blood could also point to a way to side-step the ethical dispute over the controversial use of embryos in embryonic stem-cell research.

“We have glimpsed at a silver lining over the horizon,” said Song Chang-Hoon, a member of the research team and a professor at Chosun University’s medical school in the southwestern city of Kwangju.

‘This is already a miracle for me’

We were all surprised at the fast improvements in the patient.”

Under TV lights and flashing cameras, Hwang stood up from her wheelchair and shuffled forward and back a few paces with the help of the frame at the press conference on Thursday.

“This is already a miracle for me,” she said. “I never dreamed of getting to my feet again.”
Medical research has shown stem cells can develop into replacement cells for damaged organs or body parts. Unlocking that potential could see cures for diseases that are at present incurable, or even see the body generate new organs to replace damaged or failing ones.

So-called “multipotent” stem cells – those found in cord blood – are capable of forming a limited number of specialised cell types, unlike the more versatile “undifferentiated” cells that are derived from embroyos.

However, these stem cells isolated from umbilical cord blood have emerged as an ethical and safe alternative to embryonic stem cells.

Clinical trials with embryonic stem cells are believed to be years away because of the risks and ethical problems involved in the production of embryos – regarded as living humans by some for scientific use.

In contrast, there is no ethical dimension when stem cells from umbilical cord blood are obtained, according to researchers.

Additionally, umbilical cord blood stem cells trigger little immune response in the recipient as embryonic stem cells have a tendency to form tumours when injected into animals or human beings.

For the therapy, multipotent stem cells were isolated from umbilical cord blood, which had been frozen immediately after the birth of a baby and cultured for a period of time.

Then these cells were directly injected to the damaged part of the spinal cord.
“Technical difficulties exist in isolating stem cells from frozen umbilical cord blood, finding cells with genes matching those of the recipient and selecting the right place of the body to deliver the cells,” said Han Hoon, president of Histostem, a government-backed umbilical cord blood bank in Seoul.

Han teamed up with Song and other experts for the experiment.

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