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Glossary

An easy guide to some of the scientific terminology.

Allogeneic transplant
When stem cells are donated from one person and transplanted into another person to be used as a treatment for certain illnesses and conditions.

Autologous transplant
When stem cells are taken from a person and then transplanted into the same person to be used as a treatment for certain illnesses and conditions.

Cell expansion technology
Cell expansion is the process of increasing the number of cells in a stem cell unit in a controlled way. Currently this is an area in which research is being carried out and the technology is not yet available.

Collection
This takes place after birth and the umbilical cord has been clamped and cut and is the process of collecting umbilical cord blood using a tube with a needle on one end and a bag on the other.

Cord blood
This is the blood contained within the umbilical cord and placenta.

Cryogenic preservation
The process of freezing cord blood stem cells, at very low temperatures, so that it is safely stored for long periods of time.

Family banking
In the Family Banking service all of the stem cells that are collected from your baby’s cord blood are stored for 25 years for your family’s exclusive use.

Community banking
In the Community Banking service you keep a small amount of your baby’s cord blood, the first 5ml, for your own family and donate the remainder so that it can be used by a public bank.

Haematopoeitic
This relates to the creation of blood in the body. A haematopoietic stem cell is one that can divide and produce blood cells.

Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) Tests
Tests performed on the cord blood stem cell unit that identifies tissue types. Tissue types are similar to blood types. For a person to receive a transplant of cells or tissue from someone else, they must have the closest possible tissue type 'match'. Our tissue type is determined by our DNA. There are millions of possible tissue types, so a large bank of stem cells increases the chance of finding a matched unit when one is needed.

Leukaemia
Is a cancer of the blood forming system, the blood forming system is found in the bone marrow. In leukaemia, some blood cells do not grow properly, but remain within the bone marrow and continue to reproduce in an uncontrolled way. These cells fill up the bone marrow and prevent it from making healthy white blood cells. This means the body is less able to fight off infections. There are many different kinds of leukaemia.

Tissue match / Tissue matched
Refers to a tissue typing match, the scientific term for this is HLA-type match. Tissue types must be matched as closely as possible between the person donating stem cells and the person receiving them to reduce the risk of rejection.

Maternal blood
Blood taken from the mother, which is completely separate to the blood taken from the umbilical cord.

Processing
The way in which the stem cells found in umbilical cord blood are extracted from the blood, counted, tested and prepared for long-term storage.

Public bank
In some hospitals families can donate their baby’s cord blood stem cells to a public bank so that they can be used by anyone that needs them, much like donating blood.

Regenerative medicine
This is about treatments in development that, in the future, may be able to treat diseases and injuries by using stem cells to repair or regenerate damaged cells and tissues in the body.

Stem cell
A special kind of cell that can divide many times to make exact copies of itself, or to make specialised cells that do a particular task in the body for example a blood cell, bone cell or liver cell. Some people call stem cells ‘master’ cells or ‘blank’ cells because they can change into so many different types of cell.

Testing
At Virgin Health Bank we test the mother’s blood for six viruses. We also test the cord blood to see how many stem cells there are, how healthy they are and in our community banking service we also identify what tissue type they have.

Tissue type / typing
Tissue types are similar to blood types. For a person to receive a transplant of cells or tissue from someone else, they must have the closest possible tissue type 'match'. Our tissue type is determined by our DNA. There are millions of possible tissue types, so a large bank of stem cells increases the chance of finding a close match when one is needed.

Transplantation
Taking cells, tissues, or organs and placing them into the same person or a different person to treat disease.

Unit
Stems cells collected from the umbilical cord are properly described as a ‘cord blood stem cell unit’