Thu, Dec 02, 2004 - Page 11 News List

Firm offers way to store stem cells

By Amber Chung  /  STAFF REPORTER

People who regret having missed the opportunity to save blood from their children's umbilical cord for use in stem-cell therapy can now choose to store their own blood as a substitute source of stem cells, after a local cord blood bank announced that it was extending its service to the collection and storage of adults' blood.

"The global market of cord blood alone is estimated to reach US$500 million next year, up from US$100 million in 2001," Chris Tsai (蔡政憲), chief executive officer of Taipei-based cord blood bank Bionet Corp (訊聯), said at a press conference yesterday.

The total stem-cell related market in Taiwan, including the peripheral blood stem cells extracted from adults' blood, could amount to US$30 billion next year, Tsai said.

Bionet, the nation's first cord blood bank to break into the segment of peripheral blood stem cells, yesterday announced that it would collaborate with the Taipei Medical University Hospital to establish the Cell Therapy and Generation Medicine Research Center for stem-cell therapy.

Peripheral blood stem-cell therapy can be applied to increase the number of white blood cells in cancer patients, who suffer from diminished immunity as a result of chemotherapy, which kills off white blood cells, said Yeh Shauh-der (葉劭德), who will head the center.

This patient-specific therapy could help reduce the risk of rejection, which would help to prolong patients' lives and enhance their capacity to endure higher doses of chemotherapy, he said.

Stem-cell therapy might eventually also be used in the treatment of stroke patients and to cure spinal injuries and Parkinson's disease.

Bionet, which was established five years ago, has nearly 20,000 customers who are saving their babies' cord blood at the company. It hopes to recruit over 10,000 people to store their peripheral blood in the next three years, Tsai said.

The company will charge NT$170,000 per adult for the collection of peripheral blood stem cells, which includes five years of storage.

Between 200ml and 400ml of peripheral blood can be extracted from 10 liters to 20 liters of blood, he said.

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