June 23, 2009–Oakland, Calif. – A groundbreaking study conducted by Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland is the first to reveal a new avenue for harvesting stem cells from a woman’s placenta, or more specifically the discarded placentas of healthy newborns. The study also finds there are far more stem cells in placentas than in umbilical cord blood, and they can be safely extracted for transplantation. Furthermore, it is highly likely that placental stem cells, like umbilical cord blood and bone marrow stem cells, can be used to cure chronic blood-related disorders such as sickle cell disease, thalassemia, and leukemia.
The study, led by Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland scientists Frans Kuypers, PhD, and Vladimir Serikov, PhD, will be the feature story in the July 2009 issue of Experimental Biology and Medicine. The doctors and their team made the discoveries by harvesting term placentas from healthy women undergoing elective Cesarean sections. "Yes, the stem cells are there; yes, they are viable; and yes, we can get them out," declared Dr. Kuypers.
Stem cells are essentially blank cells that can be transformed into any type of cell such as a muscle cell, a brain cell, or a red blood cell. Using stem cells from umbilical cord blood, Children’s Hospital Oakland physicians have cured more than 100 kids with chronic blood-related diseases through their sibling donor cord blood transplantation program, which began in 1997. However, according to the American Cancer Society, each year at least 16,000 people with serious blood- related disorders are not able to receive the bone marrow or cord blood transplant they need because they can’t find a match.