Cord Blood Facility in the Country
Cordlife: Security for your future
By Earl D.C. Bracamonte
“Once you choose Hope, anything is possible.”
- Christopher Reeve
Cellular therapy through Regenerative Medicine alleviated actor Christopher Reeve's spinal cord injury condition after falling from his horse. To date, modern medicine has been focusing its sights on stem cell therapy as cure for a lot of ailments. Stem cells or “master cells” have the ability to grow into any of the body's 200 cell types, or sensitized to attack diseased cells including malignant tumors. They can replicate themselves many times over and theoretically, do so without limit, so long as the patient is alive.
Cord blood is now the preferred source of stem cells for transplantation in children, as it has distinct advantages over adipose tissue, peripheral blood and bone marrow as other sources. After reaching the ages of 18 and 19, stem cells decline in number and slackens in repopulating the bone marrow. Stem cells can be collected from the umbilical cord which is usually thrown away following the delivery of the baby. It does not interfere with or obstruct the birthing procedure, thus posing no risk to mother and child. The embryo has been cited as a possible source though not many choose these option as moral issues surround the aborting of the fetus.
“The collection is done before a mother delivers the placenta. We then collect as much as 60-120 ml of cord blood depending on the size of the vessels. It has to reach Singapore within 36 hours for processing before sent back here for storage at 196 degrees Celsius. There's a $490 courier fee for using our trusted emissary, TNT Medical Courier. The oldest sample we have in storage is 27-years-old,” informed Cordlife's group medical affairs head Cherie Daly, who has been immersing herself in stem cell therapy for over five years now.
Cordlife is in the business of collecting, processing and the cryogenic preservation of cord blood stem cells, which is a candidate tissue material for life-saving treatments for the same patient and their family. It sets another first towards the Philippines' burgeoning medical capability.
Initially used as cure for hematologic disorders, the first transplant using umbilical cord blood occurred in1998 for a boy with Fanconi's Anemia. Dr. Joanna Kurtzberg pioneered the procedure at Duke University in the US. Over the years, she has made over 150 treatments especially on cases involving cerebral palsy.
Since then, approximately 14,000 cord blood transplants have been performed for over 80 different diseases. It is predicted that by 2015, as much as 10,00 transplants will be done annually.
“There is a clear, unmet medical need for an internationally accredited and responsible private cord blood bank in most modern economies given the high prevalence of cancers and blood-related disorders. Lymphoma and leukemia, the top two childhood cancers in the Philippines, and also the country's top 10 most common adult cancers, are treatable with cord blood stem cells. Soon, it would be used to treat Type 1 diabetes, a condition wherein the body attacks the pancreatic cells.
“However, the current use of cord blood stem cells is not only for the treatment of certain cancers and blood-related disorders, but also to new clinical advancements around the globe that are unlocking the autologous (sourced from the patient; as against allogenic, wherein the sourcing is from a donor) use of cord blood stem cells for cellular therapy to help repair damaged or diseased tissues. We believe that with sufficient clinical evidence of successful therapies, more medical options may be available to families who have stored their children's cord blood,” declared group CEO & founder Steven Fang, during the inauguration of Cordlife's 7th and the first cord blood processing and cryogenic preservation facility in the country.
Today, there are over 160 private cord blood banks worldwide that cryogenically preserve newborn babies' cord blood stem cells for parents in case the need arises in the future. Parents worldwide bank cord blood, primarily, as an insurance against blood disorders.
“The health of my family is important to me. There's no compromise when it comes for our little Javier. Getting Cordlife is like investing in bonds. There's an enrollment fee of P40,000 and an annual storage fee of P8,000 thereafter,” intoned comedienne Giselle Sanchez.
Cordlife was established in March 2001 as the first private cord blood bank in Singapore and Southeast Asia. Since then, the company have grown their operating footprint to include facilities in Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, mainland China, the Netherlands, India, Thailand, Macau and the Philippines. The company's R&D activities are done in Australia with partners such as Deakin University and the Monash Immunology & Stem Cell Laboratory (MISCL) in Perth, as well as clinical partnerships with renowned American institutions.
“Cordlife is one of the best decisions of my life, especially for our son Antonio Francesco's future. Now,my family's health is assured,” confessed Cristine Bersola-Babao in her testimonial.
Given the highly advanced process of isolating and cryogenically preserving cord blood stem cells, Cordlife Philippines' facility is the accumulation of the company's current state-of-the-art technologies and knowledge across the entire group. The Philippine facility adheres to the American Association of Blood Banks standards, just as their reference facility in Singapore does. The laboratory operates 7 days a week and features clean room conditions, ultra-high security measures, electrical power back-up, and proper waste management procedures.
“The establishment of a world-class cord blood bank in the Philippines is truly a welcome development. Since 2004, when I started being involved in stem cell transplantation, the problem of finding an appropriate donor, especially for pediatric patients, seemed insurmountable. Siblings were the usual choice but not everyone had suitable siblings, if at all. Even if the family can afford to procure a donor unit abroad, the chance of finding a good tissue match is low given the different genetic make-up of our population (not to mention the 6-tissue match test for a kin to use the stem cell). The best match is always one's own stem cells. If the parents of these sick children can only turn back time, I am very sure they would not have hesitated to store their children's cord blood. With the increasing use of stem cells for many different disorders – congenital, metabolic, neoplastic, auto-immune, degenerative – the chances of someone requiring a stem cell therapy in the future is estimated to be 1:217. Thus, if cord blood was stored, it can be 'taken off the shelf' when needed by the child or a family member. It is important that the cord blood bank adhere to the highest international standards to assure the viability, sterility, and security of this life-saving resource. Having such a facility in the country means that when a stem cell procedure is to be performed, there will be easy retrieval from storage, reliable transport to the transplant facility, and good stem cell quality and quantity to ensure the success of the treatment. I believe that Cordlife will greatly contribute to the advancement of cellular therapies in the country,” enthused Dr. Arvin C. Facundo, medical director of Cordlife Phils.
Cordlife utilizes the fully-automated cell processing system Sepax, which offers a sterile and precise approach to cell separation with a cell recovery rate of up to 96 percent. While in its cryogenic farm, the current capacity can hold more than 20,000 cord blood units.
“The liquid nitrogen used for cryogenics doesn't need electric power. Mother Nature has provided it with an innate system for perpetual storage; giving the utmost level of dependability,” assured country manager Suzanne Salindong.
For more information, simply visit the Cordlife Medical facility at Unit 101, Building H inside the sprawling U.P.-Ayaland Techohub complex along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City. You may also call them through tel. no. 710-9195 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Better still, check their Web site www.cordlife.com.