Smart Cells establishes base in Italy

25 March 2009

London-based Smart Cells International, the UK's longest-established cord blood stem cell processing and storage organisation, has established a base in Milan, Italy, with a joint venture with Laborest, one of Italy's leading pharmaceutical businesses.

Cord blood stem cells are extracted from the umbilical cord at birth, and can be stored and used to treat illness or disease in the future.

"The launch of the partnership is timed to coincide with the opening of Smart Cells' new processing and storage facility near London's Heathrow Airport. We are now able to collect cord blood samples anywhere in Italy and swiftly deliver them to the UK facility, which is acknowledged as being perhaps the most advanced in Europe," said Dr Peter Hollands of Smart Cells International.

"This venture will therefore provide every family in Italy with the opportunity to store their baby's cord blood stem cells. There is enormous benefit to be gained from cord blood stem cell collection. Cord blood stem cells collected at birth can be transplanted and used as a method of treating many diseases, and they can be used to help either the donor or other family members.

"Cord blood stem cells are currently used in the treatment of blood related disorders such as leukaemia and thalassaemia — there being a much higher incidence of thalassaemia around the Mediterranean, and certainly in southern Italy and Sicily.

"But ongoing scientific research has also shown the potential of umbilical cord blood stem cells in the possible treatment of a wide variety of medical conditions which may benefit from tissue repair or regeneration, such as nerve or tissue damage.

"However, we have as much of an educational challenge in Italy as we have everywhere else in the world: many new parents don't appreciate that there is only one short window in which to collect arguably the most valuable source of stem cells — from the umbilical cord, at birth.

"There is still some confusion over the different sources of stem cells. They can be collected in several ways — from blood or bone marrow — but cord blood is vastly more valuable as a source of stem cells than other known sources of cells.

"If the umbilical cord, and the cord blood, are disposed of at birth, then there will never be another chance to collect these stem cells.

"Stem cells are highly-specialised cells which, when stimulated to do so, have the capability to produce many types of cell and tissue found in the human body."

Smart Cells has stored more than 16,000 cord blood stem cell units from babies' umbilical cords collected immediately after birth.

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