Getting More Stem Cells Out of Cord Blood

Researchers use technique to get higher yields from umbilical cords

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FRIDAY, Oct. 21, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- A method of increasing the yield of stem cells that can be harvested from umbilical cord blood has been developed by researchers at the University of Toronto.

This technique may increase the therapeutic use of these stem cells, the researchers said.

They found a way to remove non-stem cells (differentiated or lineage-positive cells) to create an environment that allows improved growth of stem cells.

"A mature (lineage-positive) cell expresses markers of differentiated lineages, and a stem cell is typically negative for these markers. So, we removed the lineage-positive cells. They secrete molecules, or cytokines, which inhibit growth of stem cells. So, by removing them, we're making the environment better for stem cells," lead researcher Peter W. Zandstra, of the Stem Cell Bioengineering Laboratory, said in a prepared statement.

Typically, umbilical cord blood doesn't provide a large volume of stem cells. Usually there's only enough to treat a child, but not an adult. This method may enable more new cord-blood stem cells to be grown in the laboratory, enough to treat an adult.

The study appears in the October issue of Experimental Hematology.

Patients with leukemia and other blood-borne cancers are the major recipients of stem cell transplants.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about stem cells.

SOURCE: University of Toronto, news release, October 2005

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