New Breakthrough Program Offers Expectant Parents and Physicians a New Option to Save Newborn Stem Cells

Free Service Enables Advancement in Regenerative Stem Cell Therapy for

Neurologically Impaired Newborns

Jul 25, 2006, 01:00 ET from Cord Blood Registry

    SAN BRUNO, Calif., July 25 /PRNewswire/ -- A first-of-its kind service
 called the Newborn Possibilities Program may help provide treatment for the
 estimated 10,000 babies born in the United States each year with an
 increased risk of developing a neurological disability.
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     Launched today by Cord Blood Registry(R) -- the world's largest family
 newborn stem cell bank -- the program is designed to provide autologous, or
 one's own, umbilical cord blood stem cells (also called newborn stem cells)
 for regenerative medical treatments. Children with a low Apgar score, who
 may have an increased risk of developing neurological disabilities, will be
 accepted into the program. An Apgar score is a routine assessment used at
 the time of birth to evaluate a newborn's physical condition. All expectant
 parents in the United States are eligible for this free program and are
 advised to enroll during the second trimester of pregnancy.
     "It is impossible to predict outcomes in babies born at risk for
 neurological injury," said Dr. Robert Sears, M.D., noted author,
 pediatrician, and CBR medical advisor. "However, we can collect newborn
 stem cells from the umbilical cord immediately following the birth, and if
 a disability becomes evident, parents and doctors can use the cells to try
 and repair the damaged brain tissue. The hope is that we can lessen the
 severity of any potential disabilities and give these children a far better
 quality of life."
     Cerebral palsy (CP) is one of the many conditions that the Newborn
 Possibilities Program was designed to address. CP, which has been
 associated with very low Apgar scores, is the most common childhood
 physical disability and is diagnosed in approximately 5,000 to 10,000
 newborns each year in the United States. In addition, research conducted by
 the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development suggest that
 17 percent of premature babies will develop cerebral palsy. According to
 the March of Dimes, about one in eight (12.5 percent) live births were
 premature in 2004 (about 508,000 infants). There currently is no approved
 treatment for cerebral palsy; however, several pediatric studies involving
 stem cells are underway since treatment during the first few years of life
 appears to offer the best opportunity for improvement.
     "If you look at the consequences of significant perinatal injury, you
 run into seizures, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and a lot of other
 problems that are difficult to deal with," said Dr. James Baumgartner,
 associate professor of neurosurgery at the University of Texas Medical
 School and University of Texas Health Sciences Center. "The preliminary
 data suggests that you probably can do well for these kids with cord blood
 stem cell treatment."
     The Potential of Newborn Stem Cells
     Newborn stem cells represent a potentially powerful resource for
 regenerating brain cells, as well as a number of other cell types in the
 human body. While all stem cells work similarly -- by "regenerating"
 healthy cells to replace diseased ones -- stems cells derived from a
 newborn's own umbilical cord blood provide certain medical advantages, and
 collection poses no risk to the infant or the mother. Already proven to
 regenerate blood and immune cells, newborn stem cells have been used for
 almost 20 years as a treatment for many cancers and blood disorders,
 including leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia, and aplastic anemia. To
 date, cord blood stem cells have been used in more than 6,000 transplants
     "There currently is no reparative therapy for traumatic brain injury,"
 said Dr. James Baumgartner. "When we have something that is the first hope
 on the horizon, that's an immense step in the right direction because it
 potentially changes the paradigm on how we think about treating one of the
 biggest causes of morbidity for children. Suddenly, we have an option when
 before, we had nothing."
     About the Newborn Possibilities Program
     The Newborn Possibilities Program provides free processing and storage
 of newborn stem cells for children born with a low Apgar score, less than
 or equal to six at ten minutes. The Apgar score is a routine assessment
 used worldwide as a measure of a newborn's immediate physical condition and
 a very low score is associated with an increased risk of neurological
     Parents enrolling in the Newborn Possibilities Program incur no cost
 for the storage of the newborn's stem cells for the first four years, a
 critical stage during which physicians are typically able to determine if a
 toddler has a neurological deficit that may be improved with stem cell
 therapy. Parents wanting to know more about this service or who wish to
 enroll must do so before childbirth by visiting or by calling 1-888-CORD-BLOOD.
     "The cost of banking these powerful stem cells shouldn't be a deciding
 factor in this circumstance," said Thomas Moore, CEO of Cord Blood
 Registry. "We created the Newborn Possibilities Program because treatments
 for children with brain damage are very limited. By making autologous
 newborn stem cells accessible, many of these children will now have new
 treatment options that they never had before. Expectant parents need to
 know that the enrollment process is simple, there is no cost, and these
 cells could make a tremendous difference over the lifetime of the newborn."
     About Cord Blood Registry's Existing Programs
     In addition to the Newborn Possibilities Program, Cord Blood Registry
 operates a specialized storage program for families currently facing
 illness. CBR's Designated Transplant Program provides free cord blood
 processing and storage to families who have a relative with a disease
 treatable with stem cells. CBR has helped more than 1,000 families store
 related stem cells through its Designated Transplant Program since 1996.
 CBR is also the world's largest provider of Family Cord Blood Banking,
 which enables expectant parents to arrange for their newborn's stem cells
 to be preserved exclusively for use by their family in medical treatments.
     "You can never predict what's going to happen," said Cathy Pell, mother
 of Abby Pell, a 22-month old diagnosed with an anoxic brain injury. "Our
 fifth child had a complication that couldn't be detected or prevented prior
 to birth, but because we stored her cord blood, we were able to provide our
 daughter with the option of stem cell therapy. Before, she wasn't tracking
 objects with her eyes or even sitting up, and now she is. We have hope."
     About Cord Blood Registry
     Cord Blood Registry (CBR)(R) is a registered trademark of Cbr Systems,
 Inc., the largest newborn stem cell processing and cryopreservation service
 for familial use in transplantation and regenerative medicine. Accredited
 by the American Association of Blood Banks, CBR preserves more than 400,000
 newborn stem cell units from over 130,000 families throughout the world.
 CBR has released more than 40 client cord blood samples for use in
 transplant and regenerative medicine cases-more than any other family cord
 blood bank. The company's research and development is focused on advancing
 the collection, processing, and storage methods to optimize quality and
 cell yield. Additionally, CBR facilitates collection of donated research
 samples, available for the nearly 200 research programs worldwide that are
 focused on stem cell expansion and cell-based therapies.
     (1) Thorngren-Jerneck K, Herbst A. "Low 5-minute Apgar Score: A
 Population-Based Register Study Of 1 Million Term Births." Obstet Gynecol.

SOURCE Cord Blood Registry