During the last decade of the 20th century, the first cord blood unit was banked at the University of Arizona. About at this time, ViaCord was founded. Due to the recognized significance in the field of medical science and clinical practice, United States Congress passed the legislation regarding stem cell research and therapeutic use back in 2005. Since then, this significant resource was used as an alternative donor of hematopoietic tissue in all of the conditions that previously utilized only bone marrow donors. An effective, yet safe alternative to bone marrow transplantation showed plenty of success in the management of severe conditions including hematological malignancies, congenital immunodeficiency syndromes, bone marrow failure, hemoglobinopathies, and inherited metabolic diseases. Clinical trials, approved and overseen by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are underway to investigate all the possible therapeutic advantages and to broaden the field of cord blood stem cell use.
If you think that private cord blood banking is a feasible option for you instead of public cord blood banking because you find that cord blood banking is worth it, and you can assume the costs, then you will be interested in this article and in other articles that are similar to this. ViaCord was founded in 1993. ViaCord has more than 20 years of experience in banking cord blood units. The company is accredited by AABB (formerly American Association of Blood Banks), FDA registered and The Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) compliant. ViaCord actively supports clinical research focused on investigating the use of stem cells for conditions such as cancer, juvenile diabetes, and heart disease and it is not the only company that supports research. To date, more than three hundred thousand cord blood units were banked in ViaCord, and, more importantly, ViaCord is currently the leader in providing the units for transplantation purposes. The survival rate among patients who banked and needed to use cord blood units is the highest with ViaCord in comparison to other banking facilities according to their website
Cord Blood Banking
ViaCord currently stores more than three hundred thousand cord blood units. These are not donations, they are property of their customers. More than 360 cord blood units were released for the purpose of transplantation and research in the field of regenerative medicine. Stem cell research opened new possibilities for families having members that face severe health conditions and gave birth to a new field of medical science called regenerative medicine. Regenerative medicine aims to create new, functional tissues and restore organ function that was previously damaged by disease, trauma or congenital defects. Additionally, this field of medical science focuses on discovering the mechanisms that would induce the ”self-repair” of organs by engaging body’s own regenerative potential. Recently discovered Mesenchymal Stem Cells hold potential to be used in chronic, currently untreatable diseases such as liver fibrosis, lung cancer, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and many more. Some of the risks associated to stem cell therapy, identified by the FDA include administration site reactions, immune-mediated reactions, the ability of cells to migrate to an area that was not targeted by therapy and tumor growth.
ViaCord designed a collection bag that was approved for use by the FDA. This collection kit is suitable for all types of deliveries including vaginal delivery and delivery by Cesarean section. The bag is pre-filled by citrate phosphate dextrose (CPD) which acts as an anticoagulant. Studies have shown that cord blood units containing CPD preserve a fifty percent higher number of viable stem cells in comparison with those containing heparin, which directly correlates with future treatment success rates. Each kit contains an antiseptic wipe that is used for cleaning the umbilical cord prior to collection. The kit design ensures safe and effective collection of cord blood that lasts approximately five minutes.
Container design ensures a constant temperature of the samples during the transport all the way to the processing laboratory. The viability of each sample is evaluated using the 7-amino-actinomycin D (7-AAD) in order to check if the appropriate temperature level was maintained during the transport. The process follows Good Distribution Practices standards.
Stored Components and Storage Method
ViaCord stores umbilical cord blood and umbilical cord tissue. With each sample, clients are provided the certificate of cryopreservation and the document describing the unit quality and potency. In addition to cord blood and tissue units, ViaCord stores additional samples for unit testing, including the evaluation of HLA type.
Each collected sample by ViaCord goes through the process of separation. By using the centrifuge, stem cells are separated from debris that includes red blood cells, plasma, and other detrimental components. This is to ensure the purity of each cord blood unit since it has been shown that the use of pure stem cells is associated with a lower risk of administration site reactions, immune-mediated reactions, and other adverse outcomes.
Unlike traditional two-compartment samples, ViaCord unit is stored in a five-compartment bag, made for multiple potential uses. Each compartment contains the same number of viable stem cells ready for future treatment options. Five-compartment bag gives the physician more flexibility in terms of treatment planning, while it enables the family to use one sample multiple times, participate in multiple clinical trials or use the stem cells in separate time intervals e.g. if the new treatment possibility emerges. Once the processing is complete, the bags are stored in the vapor phase of the cryogenic nitrogen.
Insurance from ViaCord
ViaCord guarantees that storage fees will not be changed during the interval of 25 years. Families that pay banking fees in advance will be reimbursed if the unit is retrieved for therapeutic purposes. If the quality of the sample is low the family may choose not to bank the cord blood unit. Check in ViaCord if the costs of processing and collection will be fully refunded by ViaCord in such cases.
Research and Development
The relatively new field of regenerative medicine offers plenty of research possibilities including facilitation of tissue repair processes in conditions such as cerebral palsy, autism, diabetes mellitus, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and heart pathologies. ViaCord is currently supporting the development of new treatments that include the use of stem cells in order to activate and improve body’s own repair mechanisms according to information from their website
- In a close collaboration with the Dukes University, recently completed Phase I and II clinical trials investigating the use of stem cells in patients with autism showed that stem cells can be safely used in children with autism with individual benefits that did not reach statistical significance. More clinical trials are underway to investigate the efficacy of the use of stem cells from a sibling donor and an unrelated donor in a population suffering from autism spectrum disorder.
- The research that aimed to investigate the use of stem cells in children suffering from cerebral palsy demonstrated that the infusion of stem cells resulted in improvements in a child’s brain connectivity and motor function. The clinical trial, which will investigate the use of stem cells from a sibling donor in children with cerebral palsy is planned to be initiated soon at the Dukes University in collaboration with ViaCord.
- ViaCord supported the Phase I study designed to investigate the safety of stem cell therapy in children with type 1 diabetes mellitus showed that autologous infusion of stem cells is safe. Some data regarding efficacy were obtained however more research is needed to obtain the final conclusion.
Cord Tissue Banking
Unlike hematopoietic stem cells (from the cord blood); mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are pluripotent stem cells, capable to differentiate into mesodermal cell lines such as osteocytes, chondrocytes, and adipocytes, as well as into cells of ectodermal origin such as neurocytes and endodermal origin (hepatocytes). MSC possess immunomodulatory potential and secrete cytokines and anti-inflammatory molecules, which may be an effective tool in the management of chronic conditions.
ViaCord offers a specific program of banking cord tissue, meaning that cord tissue stem cells are extracted prior to their cryopreservation. That way, an exact number of stem cells is known and reported to the families prior to cryopreservation and extracted stem cells are stored in a ready-to-use form. By using this method of cord tissue storage, eight times more mesenchymal stem cells are preserved in comparison with stored segments and pieces of the umbilical cord. Targeted regions of the umbilical cord for the extraction of stem cells include Wharton’s jelly, endothelial and perivascular regions, which are proven to have the highest concentration of mesenchymal stem cells in the umbilical cord.
Whole Genome Sequencing
Whole genome sequencing represents the process of mapping the entire DNA in order to evaluate the risks for specific diseases, prevent and treat the diseases prior to the development of symptoms and signs and to tailor a more personalized approach to treatment and prevention. Applying a personalized treatment scheme leads directly to better treatment outcomes and increases the overall safety of applied therapies. ViaCord has the team of experts that is responsible for all phases of the genome sequencing process. This includes genome sequencing from the sample of saliva, genetic screening, identifying mutations and interpreting results of the sequencing process.
Genome sequencing opens new pathways towards personalized medicine and pharmacogenomics. Newly designed treatments will enable tailored therapies to each individual which will ensure better treatment efficacy. In terms of safety, individual treatment approach will bring fewer side effects, their predictability, and prevention. The personalized medicine will enable better disease monitoring during the recovery process as well as higher predictability of disease recurrence enabling early intervention and more successful treatment outcomes.
Sibling Connection Program
The Sibling Connection Program developed in collaboration with Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) includes stem cell collection, processing, and storage at no cost during the period of five years for expecting families which already have a child that would benefit from stem cell transplantation. If eligibility criteria are met, any child needing stem cell transplant from a sibling donor may receive the aforementioned service free of charge. The referral of the physician must be completed prior to evaluation of eligibility. A very high number of medical conditions are included in this program. Children suffering from cancer (e.g. acute lymphoblastic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, Burkitt’s lymphoma etc.); bone marrow system failures (e.g. Fanconi anemia, severe aplastic anemia etc.); blood disorders (e.g. Sickle-cell anemia) or metabolic disorders may be eligible for the abovementioned program. This program is one of the largest programs of direct-donor cord blood banking in the United States.
Bone Marrow Foundation One-to-One Fund
One-to-One funds enable raising money for one patient specifically that needs the bone marrow or stem cell transplantation. The fund provides not only financial assistance but also educational programs, as well as emotional and psychological support to families. All donations are visible and provided to the patient in a form of a listing, while donors are provided with the acknowledgment of receipt for each donation. The Foundation takes a five percent fee to administer the funds to the patient.