Perinatal Stem Cell Conference in Colorado in the USA

By Dr. Michelle Mason 6 years agoNo Comments
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Perinatal Stem Cell Conference in Colorado in the USA

I recently attended  the Perinatal Stem Cell Conference in Colorado in the USA. It was an incredible opportunity to hear world renowned experts in the field of stem cell research speak about their exciting pre-clinical and clinical work.

It is really important for our company to keep up to date and current with international research so we can keep our client and doctors informed of new developments around the world. Several countries are concentrating on different disease models and various types of stem cells.


Australia through Monash University and The Ritchie Centre have completed a very promising animal model trial in cerebral palsy demonstrating the benefits of cord blood infusions and neurological improvement. This month Australia have started their first clinical trial for the treatment of cerebral palsy. This is a phase 1 trial of matched sibling cord blood at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne with funding from the Cerebral Palsy Alliance and Cell Care, Australia’s largest family cord blood bank.

They also have several sports medicine trials on the go at Lakeside Sports Medicine Centre for the treatment of osteo-arthritis using stem cells. Cell and animal data, as well as early human studies have shown cartilage regeneration as well as improvement in pain and function. These trials are extremely important as osteo-arthritis is such a common condition with a huge cost to the economy . There are also several other interesting animal and human trials in lung diseases of prematurity, stroke, cranial reconstruction, graft vs host disease, auto-immune diseases and liver disease.


China is a leader in the field of clinical research, particularly with mesenchymal stem cells (MSC’s). The large majority of umbilical cord tissue trials are based in the Far East. They also presented some very promising data on the use of MSC’s co-transplanted with haematopoietic stem cells (HSC’s) showing better engraftment of transplants (and ultimately success) and a reduced incidence of graft vs host disease (transplant rejection). They offer a variety of banking services including cord blood, cord tissue, placental tissues, adipose (fat) tissues and even dental stem cell banking. They have several clinical MSC products on the market for a variety of conditions ranging from MSC gels for wound healing to injectable products.


Europe also has several trials registered with some exciting work being done in the orthopaedic setting (for osteo-arthritis, tendon and cartilage injuries) as well lung and heart disease. The Carolinska Institute in Sweden are doing ground-breaking work for the treatment of genetic metabolic diseases affecting the liver as well as liver failure.


The US are also at the forefront of clinical trials, with several trials underway for wound healing applications, cardiac disease, lung disease and kidney disease to name a few. They were fortunate to have funding from numerous philanthropic foundations as well as several working groups who aim to accelerate and help to make stem cell therapies available to patients. It is encouraging to see partnerships between the stem cell industry, academic institutions and regulatory bodies developing guidelines to ensure products are of high quality, affordable and effective.

Dr Joanne Kurtzberg’s work  from Duke University has been pioneering in the brain injury field. Her work started over a decade ago when many patients who had received stem cell transplants for genetic metabolic disorders had marked improvement in their neurological status. This inspired her to give children with cerebral palsy their own cord blood and after several positive testimonials they embarked on a large phase 2 clinical trial at Duke and Georgia Regents University.  This has been extended to included other categories of brain conditions including autism, paediatric stroke, hydrocephalus and neonatal oxygen deprivation. The results of the trial have taken longer than anticipated because of the difficulty in recruiting the numbers of patients required who fit the study parameters and have their own cord blood stored. However preliminary data from her presentation shows that cord blood infusions are safe and effective in improving in the neurological outcomes of cerebral palsy patients and have been submitted for publication. They are applying to the FDA for standard of care to collect cord blood and treat any suspected birth related brain injuries as soon as possible. In November 2015 Duke started another cerebral palsy trial using cord blood from siblings, as well as a trial in adult acute stroke to be treated with cord blood.

We hope that finally this therapy will be become available to more children with brain injuries and cerebral palsy worldwide giving families access to this potential treatment.


Watch this space and we will continue to keep you posted on exciting developments in this ever changing field!

Click here to view photos from the Perinatal Stem Cell Conference
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 Dr. Michelle Mason

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Clinical Manager | MBBCh (Wits). Michelle Mason graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand 1997 with a Bachelor in Medicine and Surgery (MBBCH Wits). After graduation, Michelle worked in the departments of Paediatrics, Cardio-thoracics, Respiratory and Intensive care. Her special interest in haematology lead to a year in the haematology department at the Johannesburg General hospital. Michelle enjoyed a career as a general practitioner for 12 years but her interest in haematology led her to Next Biosciences where she is responsible for the umbilical cord blood and tissue service. Michelle also volunteers at Strathyre Girls Home (Salvation Army Children’s Home). She runs a free clinic for 45 girls aged 3-18 and the staff members at the home. She is also Chairperson of their Advisory Board and is involved in various fundraising and upliftment projects at the home as well as a Tertiary Education Fund at the Salvation Army.

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