Scientists at the Immunology and Oncology Research Institute (IORI) at the University of Montreal have just announced the discovery of a new molecule that can multiply stem cells in one unit of umbilical blood. This molecule is UM171.
According to Dr. Guy Sauvageau, principal scientist at the IORI and Haematology at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital, the number of umbilical blood units available for transplantation can be multiplied by 10. Combined with the use of a “new bioreactor developed for the culture of stem cells in collaboration with Toronto University“, molecule UM171 “will allow thousands of patients across the globe to have access to safer stem cell transplantation. Considering that many patients cannot actually have a stem cell transplant because of the lack of compatible donors, this discovery looks extremely promising for the treatment of various types of cancer.“
A clinical study will be started in December 2014, and the first tangible results should be available in December 2015. In the event of conclusive clinical results, the latter “could revolutionise the treatment of leukaemia and other blood disorders“.
“The umbilical cord blood of a newborn baby is an excellent source of haematopoietic stem cells for stem cell transplantation” because the immune system of new born babies is “still immature and stem cells are less likely to trigger a harmful immune reaction in the recipient“. Furthermore, “contrary to a bone marrow transplant, immunological compatibility between donor and recipient does not have to be perfect“.