July 24, 2015

Recent headlines in the umbilical cord blood banking community indicate that UC Berkeley researchers and scientists at the Gladstone Institutes have developed a method to grow beating cardiac tissue from stem cells, which could create a model for early heart development, as well as a drug-screening tool to make pregnancies safer for mom’s who consider umbilical cord tissue banking from family cord blood services.

The researchers used biochemical and biophysical cues to prompt stem cells to differentiate and self-organize into micron-scale cardiac tissue, including microchambers. “We believe it is the first example illustrating a process of developing human heart chamber in vitro,” stated Kevin Healy, a professor of bioengineering at UC Berkeley. Healy serves as co-senior author of the study with Dr. Bruce Conklin, a senior investigator at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease.

Dr. Conklin also stated that this technology could help screen for drugs that are likely to generate cardiac birth defects, so that they may be avoided. This is highly beneficial for safer pregnancies, just as there are many cord tissue banking benefits. Dr. Conklin advised that there are as many as 280,000 pregnant women exposed to drugs that carry an evidence of potential fetal risk. The most common reported birth defects include the heart, so preventing this is of utmost concern for those involved in the drug safety world. It is possible that stem cells could play a role in making these pregnancies safer and children less prone to birth defects, which makes family cord blood services like us very happy. We have seen the affect that birth defects can have on a person, and we hope that as cord blood and cord tissue benefits increase, one of them will be preventing birth defects through family cord banking.

Currently, stem cells collected through umbilical cord blood banking and cord tissue banking is known to treat more than 80 diseases. As research increases, one of the cord blood and tissue banking benefits could have to do with heart disease. It would be remarkable if umbilical cord tissue banking through a family cord blood service could play a role in preventing heart disease in both children and adults. Perhaps then more people would know the answer to the question, “What is cord tissue?”

Source: http://news.berkeley.edu/2015/07/14/early-human-heart-development-stem-cells-model/

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