Cord Blood: Life Sustaining, Lifesaving

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 30, 2014

Cord blood collection is a safe procedure for both mother and child.

Did you know that babies are born with a precious, potentially lifesaving resource?

By donating your baby’s umbilical cord blood, the same blood that helped sustain your child while in the womb, you are providing something that could save the life of a patient with leukemia, lymphoma, or another type of life-threatening genetic disease. This is because cord blood has an abundance of blood-forming stem cells. These cells can be collected, preserved, and later transplanted to an adult or pediatric patient to help treat their disease. Building a bank of this resource is critical, as 70 percent of patients who need these cells don’t have a family member who is a matching donor.

It’s important to emphasize that cord blood collection is a free, medically safe procedure for both the mother and child, and the procedure doesn’t change the birthing process. The blood is collected from the cord after the baby is born, and no blood is taken from the baby. If the cord blood isn’t collected, this valuable resource is thrown away.

Mothers with a singleton pregnancy (one child) and who have no history of cancer or tuberculosis are eligible to donate their baby’s cord blood through the BWH Cord Blood Donation Program. Talk to your doctor, midwife, or nurse if you’re interested in donating. If you have further questions, please e-mail us at CordDonor@partners.org.

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New Way to Study Alzheimer’s Disease

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 1, 2014

New Way to Study Alzheimer's Disease

This image illustrates neurons derived from stem cells of a living patient with a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s disease. Neuronal protein is shown in green. Red depicts a subset of neurons affected in the disease process.

Using cells from blood relatives with familial Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a team of researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) has been able to study the underlying causes of AD and develop new ways to test treatment approaches.

People with familial AD have a genetic predisposition that leads to early development of the disease. More than 200 different mutations are associated with familial AD. Depending on the mutation, patients with familial AD can begin exhibiting symptoms as early as their 30s and 40s.

“Our research using human cells affected by AD has been limited to tissue samples from patients who have already died from the disease,” says Dr. Tracy L. Young-Pearse, corresponding author of the study recently published in Human Molecular Genetics and an investigator in the BWH Center for Neurologic Diseases. “AD is characterized by the presence of amyloid-beta protein plaques and Tau protein tangles, but observing living cell behavior and understanding the role of these abnormal protein deposits and tangles and their relationship has been challenging.”

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Growing Bone with Clay

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 2, 2013

The deepening red color (representing bone) demonstrates how synthetic clay progressively induces stem cells to become bone cells.

For centuries, clay has helped us build both beautiful and practical things. French sculptor Auguste Rodin focused on beauty, using clay models to help him shape impressive bronze sculptures of the human form, including “The Thinker.” Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) biomedical engineer Ali Khademhosseini, PhD, Division of Biomedical Engineering and his team, however, specialize in practicality, working with clay and human bone. But they use clay to grow bone, not shape it.

Khademhosseini’s team recently reported in the journal Advanced Materials that synthetic silicate nanoplatelets (also known as layered clay) can activate bone marrow stem cells to become bone cells, without the aid of any other bone-growth agents. This synthetic clay consists of simple or complex salts of silicic acids and has been used extensively for various commercial and industrial applications, including food additives, glass and ceramic filler materials, and anti-caking agents.

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Unlocking the Mystery: Origin of New Heart Cells

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 5, 2013

A sophisticated imaging system demonstrates cell division in an adult mammal heart.

As we age, our bodies lose the ability to make new heart cells, just at the time when we are most vulnerable to heart disease. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, the risk of heart disease increases for men over 45 years and for women over 55 years (or after menopause). Recent discoveries by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) about how new cardiac cells form may eventually help patients recover from heart disease by increasing the body’s ability to regenerate heart cells.

Though scientists know that the body can create new heart cells, they have been unsure about the process by which these cells are born and how frequently they are formed. By using a new method to image heart cells, the BWH research team, led by Dr. Richard T. Lee,  Cardiovascular Division, and Dr. Claude P. Lechene, Department of Medicine, new light may be shed on the origin of new heart cells.

The BWH research team was able to observe the birth of new heart cells by tagging their genes so they would glow when viewed microscopically. The tagged heart cells were then observed using an imaging system known as multi-isotope imaging mass spectrometry (MIMS) to record the development of new heart muscle cells, known as cardiomyocytes, over several months.

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