Advances in Cord Blood Expansion and Homing Technologies Enhance the Value of Cord Blood Banking

The most exciting advance in cord blood banking research is the recent discovery of a molecule, UM171, which can dramatically increase the number of stem cells in a cord blood unit. A phase I study is scheduled for December 2014.


Culturing cells from cord blood with the synthetic molecule, UM171, has the potential to dramatically increase the number of cord blood units available for transplant in adults. This molecule, discovered by Guy Sauvageau and his team at the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer at the University of Montreal, has been shown to boost cord blood stem cell counts up to 13 fold1. It achieves this by inhibiting a normal molecular limitation of stem cell multiplication. Along with the improved cell culture expansion, pre-clinical studies also showed that cells exposed to the UM171 molecule exhibited improved CD45 engraftment and also remained multipotent, evidenced by differentiating into myeloid and lymphoid cells. UM171 has successfully passed toxicity studies2 and is currently in GMP production for a clinical study beginning in December 2014. Results are expected in late 2015.


Companies such as Gamida Cell are also involved in ex vivo treatments to make cord blood transplants available for patients with hematological malignancies. Gamida Cell expands a portion of the cord blood stem cell graft and transplants it along with the non-expanded cells of cord blood. Phase I clinical trials show improved survival, shortened time to platelet engraftment and no difference in adverse events3 Another company, Fate Therapeutics, uses an ex vivo treatment of cord blood that enhances homing (migration) of Hematopoietic Stem Cells (hsc) to the marrow.

Pre-clinical and Phase I trials show the treatment may improve performance of the HSC graft in patients with inherited metabolic disorders.


Umbilical cord blood contains the cells of an immature immune system. Since the cells are immature, they have a lower probability of creating an adverse immune reaction in the recipient. So these new advancements in cell expansion bring relevance to storing cord cells well beyond child-hood age.


1. Science 2014; 345(6203):1509-12
2. Blood: 2013; 122(21)
3. J Clin Invest. 2014; 124(7):3121-8
4. Photo taken from

Last Updated on: 09/14/2023 by Diane Paradise