Joined: 24 Dec 2006
|Posted: Fri Feb 02, 2007 9:45 pm Post subject: Branson setting up stem cell bank
February 2, 2007 - 9:23AM
British entrepreneur Richard Branson says he is setting up a nonprofit blood bank to allow parents to store stem cells from their children's umbilical cords.
The airline, mobile phone and media magnate, head of the Virgin Group, said he hoped the Virgin Health Bank would eventually store up to 300,000 umbilical cord blood samples.
Branson said he came up with the idea after being approached by Britain's national blood bank for help boosting the number of umbilical blood samples.
"(The blood bank) said that there were quite a lot children dying in Britain unnecessarily because there was not enough cord blood stored," Branson told British Broadcasting Corp radio.
Getting Britain's public health service to accept private money proved difficult, he said.
"So what we've decided to do is set up a company that can get out there and increase the number of samples dramatically," he said.
Branson said any money generated by the bank would be donated to charitable organisations to further research into cord blood stem cells.
The growing number of parents who bank their children's cord blood believe it is a form of biological insurance against future serious illness. Other companies already offer similar services in Britain and other countries.
Under the scheme, parents wishing to store their children's umbilical stem cells would have to pay Stg1,500 ($A3,804) to put the cord blood into a freezer for 20 years, but about half the blood would be made publicly available.
Umbilical cords are usually discarded after childbirth, but stem cells can be extracted from the blood.
The cells, kept in cold storage, can later be used to help regenerate tissue such as bone marrow, making the cells particularly important for treating blood cancers and diseases like leukaemia and sickle cell anaemia.
Because the cells come from the recipient, there is no wait for a donor and theoretically no risk of rejection.