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Second wind: how stem cells save lives

In the nineties of the last century, when it became known that stem cells help in the treatment of a number of diseases, cryobanks began to appear

1960. Seven-year-old Nancy and her parents visit Disneyland. She and her twin sister are having a great time – having fun and enjoying every attraction. But after the entertainment shows mommy a pillow, on which traces of blood from the gums. The family takes the girl to the dentist. The dentist examined the child and sent him with his family to the Mayo clinic (Minnesota) – a multidisciplinary medical center that specialized in complex diseases.

There Nancy begins to treat Dr. Robert Kyle. The girl is given a blood transfusion, later it will be 98 procedures. Nancy had to go through numerous painful bone marrow biopsies, hormone therapy, which had a negative impact on the growth of the child. There were cases when doctors doubted whether the little patient would survive the night.

1963. All changed case. One day, Dr. Kyle spotted Nancy’s twin sister Bonnie at the clinic.

The doctor offered Nancy’s family a hematopoietic bone marrow stem cell transplant from her twin sister. Bone marrow transplantation in the 60s of the twentieth century was only in its infancy and was performed only between identical twins. Robert Kyle has performed your child their first transplant of hematopoietic stem cells. There were no tissue compatibility tests at the time, so both sisters were transplanted into each other’s arms to make sure there was no rejection. After a bone marrow transplant, Nancy spent six weeks in isolation and her illness and bleeding stopped.

In the future, Nancy became a mother of two children and a grandmother of two grandchildren. She worked as a teacher in elementary school and was engaged in a program for children with autism. In life, Nancy is most grateful to Dr. Kyle and her sister, who shared her bone marrow. For more than 50 years, Nancy is the world’s oldest survivor after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.


2015. China. Born Zhao Jaxin.

She will soon be the first child in China to receive an umbilical cord blood transplant to treat genetic bowel disease. This disease is often the cause of death of newborns. Already at the age of 8 days in Zhao began manifestations of diarrhea. The same symptoms caused her sister’s death at the age of 5 months. The girl’s mother was afraid that I’d lose Zhao.

A genetic study showed that the child suffered from inflammatory bowel disease with very early manifestations. This disease is caused by hereditary genetic mutation. Gene deficiency leads to a violation in the immune system of the intestine.

The only effective treatment for inflammatory bowel disease in newborns is stem cell transplantation. Transplantation can “correct” the genetic defect and control the symptoms of the disease.

Little Zhao was one of the first nine patients to receive an umbilical cord blood transplant at the University of Fudan Hospital. The age of young patients ranged from 6 to 43 months, and the weight – from three to ten kilograms.

The girl’s condition returned to normal three months after transplantation. When little Zhao returned home from the hospital, her mother exclaimed happily: “I remember her at the age of 100 days when she was like a skeleton, and now she is almost a  fat girl.”


The stories discussed above are impossible without the participation of doctors and medical centers. Research centers also play an important role in stem cell research. That’s where the expertise, tests and stored biomaterial. The championship in such research centers is held by cryobanks.

Cryobanks began to appear in the nineties of the last century, when it became known that stem cells help in the treatment of a number of diseases. Today, more than 400 such institutions have been established in 96 countries around the world. The largest storage of umbilical cord blood is in the United States – Cord Blood Registry. The Bank opened in 1992 and holds more than 500,000 samples. In Europe, the largest Bank – CryoSave – 250 000 customers. He appeared almost ten years later.

For successful transportation of cells you need to invest in 24 hours (the so-called “gold standard”). If you exceed it – the cells begin to die. After transportation, the biomaterials are stored in special tanks filled with liquid nitrogen. Shelf life – from one day to twenty years. The freezing procedure allows to preserve up to 96% of stem cells of biomaterial after defrosting.

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