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U team launches first-of-its-kind study to use expanded blood-forming stem cells from umbilical cord blood

John E. Wagner, M.D. (Photo courtesy of Children’s Cancer Research Fund)

University of Minnesota investigators have opened a Phase I clinical trial designed to test the safety and potency of blood-forming stem cells in umbilical cord blood (UCB) that previously have been multiplied in a new cell-culturing system.

Derrick Keller, an 18-year-old baseball player with acute lymphoblastic leukemia from St. Louis Park, Minn., was the first patient to enroll in the study. He underwent his transplant February 7.

Scientists at the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation recently discovered a low-molecular-weight compound that promotes the expansion of blood-forming stem cells, the parent cells of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in November approved the initiation of a Phase I clinical trial using this new chemical compound. The trial is led by the University’s John E. Wagner, M.D., an internationally recognized pioneer in the field of UCB transplantation.

UCB, the blood left in a placenta after the birth of a child, is increasingly being used as a source of blood-forming stem cells for transplant as part of the treatment of children and adults with a variety of life-threatening diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma, and myelodysplastic syndrome.

Finding ways to expand the number of UCB stem cells per unit could improve the chance of finding a suitable match among the 750,000 UCB units available worldwide.

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