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A New Molecule has been Discovered to Multiply Stem Cells

Dr. Guy Sauvageau, a renowned scientist at Université de Montréal’s Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer, discovered a specific molecule that is able to multiply stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood.

Cancers and their poor prognoses

Some types of cancer, like those affecting the blood cells or bone marrow, specifically lymphoma, myeloma and leukemia, are particularly hard to treat. Traditional treatments are too expensive, or unavailable and without guarantee of a successful outcome, medical management is focused on palliative care, or improving patients’ quality of life with the presence of the disease.

Stem cells in treating cancer

Stem cells are essentially immature cells, the youngest stage at which cells have yet to differentiate. Since stem cells mature to become specialized cells, they have the ability to replicate themselves for various purposes such as repairing or rebuilding damaged tissues of the human body. In the case of cancers involving the blood, stem cells can differentiate into the various types of blood cells in the bone marrow, where they eventually migrate to the bloodstream, ultimately treating the main problem of cancer.

Stem cells are transplanted from donor to recipient to make healthy and new blood cells. Stem cells can be collected from the blood of the umbilical cord upon the birth of a newborn. Such cells are extracted and preserved for future use, either by the newborn or immediate family members.

The UM171: A Potential Life-Saver

Going back to Dr. Sauvageau’s amazing discovery, in his paper entitled, The Multiplication of Blood Stem Cells: a Made-in-Québec Revolution, Dr. Sauvageau christened the newly discovered molecule as UM171, named after Université de Montréal. He details the possible uses of this molecule to enhance the availability of cord blood stem cells in the successful treatment of terminal diseases like lymphoma, myeloma, and leukemia, of which he also extensively researched.

As a potential life-saver, a human clinical trial utilizing the UM171 has begun and it is currently recruiting participants.1,2 The results of Dr. Sauvageau’s human clinical trials with the UM171 molecule are predicted to be so promising that the success probability of the trial is deemed to be outstanding.

Implications in Cord Blood Banking

A cord blood bank is crucial to store (cryopreserve) stem cells and preserve their healing abilities. With Dr. Sauvageau’s discovery of the UM171, this will have positive implications for banking cord blood and enhancing the application of cord blood stem cells in treatments.

Cryogenically preserved stem cells theoretically have no expiry, hence they can be stored for an indefinite time. Nevertheless, some still argue that due to the nature of cord blood being a comparatively small volume sample consequently providing a lower cell dose, it is a medical challenge to ensure that the number of preserved stem cells will be sufficient for treating heavier patients and benefit future generations.

Therefore, the UM171 and its capability of multiplying stem cells, addresses the exact problem raised by certain critics of stem cell banking and its availability for the long-term.

As we wait for the positive outcome of UM171 to unfold, numerous patients can hold on to the success probability associated with stem cell transplants to treat their illnesses. The opportunity associated with stem cell treatments gives us all a new hope that umbilical cord blood stem cells will be crucial in our collective effort to create a healthier future.


Further Information:

  1. Health Canada allows clinical trials for UM171 https://www.iric.ca/en/2015/12/allowing-clinical-trials-molecule-um171/
  2. Clinical Trial – UM171 https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02668315
  3. Radio-Canada Scientist of the Year http://nouvelles.umontreal.ca/en/article/2015/01/29/dr-guy-sauvageau-at-iric-radio-canadas-2014-scientist-of-the-year/
  4. La Presse’s 2014 Personality of the Year in the Science category http://www.lapresse.ca/actualites/dossiers/inspiration-2014/201501/01/01-4832001-guy-sauvageau-le-miracle-dune-molecule.php
  5. Learn more about Sauvageau Laboratory’s research on cord blood http://www.sauvageaulab.ca/research/ideal-cord-blood-graft.html
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