Woman Will Use Stem Cells From Her Baby’s Umbilical Cord To Save Her Brother, Who Has a Brain Tumor

Bioethics   Micaiah Bilger   Aug 18, 2017   |   2:35PM    London, England

A pregnant British mom hopes she and her unborn baby will be the answer to help prolong her ailing brother’s life.

Georgina Russell, of Preston, England, said she was desperate to help her brother, Ashley, when doctors diagnosed him with a slow-growing but deadly brain tumor earlier this year, according to the Daily Mail.

Georgina said she began researching his condition, glioblastoma, online and looking for answers that could save his life. She found one: her pregnancy.

Stem cells produced in the umbilical cord between her and her unborn baby potentially could be used in a treatment to shrink Ashley’s tumor, according to the report. Once Georgina gives birth, she said doctors will be able to harvest and store the stem cells until Ashley needs them.

There is no harm to the baby or the mother when doctors harvest stem cells from the umbilical cord — unlike embryonic stem cells, which only can be taken by killing a human life in the embryonic stage.

Georgina told the Mail: “The blood from the cord is being used in trials across the world. It can do amazing things to help the body repair itself. If we store the stem cells, they can be kept to be used throughout Ashley’s treatment when he needs them.

“They might be able to inject them into the spinal fluid, to shrink the tumour on the brain, or they may be able to use the tissue grown from them to repair any damage to other parts of his body, if he has to have chemotherapy or radiotherapy.”

Ashley Russell, a British military veteran, husband and father, said doctors found the tumor after he began suffering from headaches, dizzy spells and mini-seizures about six months ago. Later, he said he also began having blurred vision. Doctors ran a series of tests before discovering the tumor on his brain.

He said doctors suggested surgery, but the procedure has high risks. They gave him about five years to live, according to the report.

Georgina said she was devastated for her brother and his family, and she began researching ways to help him. In her research online, she said she discovered how stem cells collected from the umbilical cord are helping to treat people with tumors and other diseases.

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Her brother said the idea seemed odd at first, but he is willing to try anything.

I am quite a positive person so although the diagnosis was difficult, I am determined to do whatever I can to keep going,” Ashley said. “I did think about not being around to see my little girl get married and knew that if there was anything that might help, I would give it a go.”

Georgina currently is 33 weeks pregnant with her unborn child, the report states.

“Stem cells are so powerful and his new niece or nephew could save his life,” she said.

The family set up a JustGiving page to help pay for the storage of the stem cells and Ashley’s treatment.

Adult stem cells and those from umbilical cords are proving to be live-saving, while life-destroying embryonic stem cells have not been effective.

David Prentice, vice president and research director for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, explained more about the effectiveness of these life-saving stem cells in 2014:

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Umbilical cord blood stem cells have become an extremely valuable alternative to bone marrow adult stem cell transplants, ever since cord blood stem cells were first used for patients over 25 years ago. The first umbilical cord blood stem cell transplant was performed in October 1988, for a 5-year-old child with Fanconi anemia, a serious condition where the bone marrow fails to make blood cells. That patient is currently alive and healthy, 25 years after the cord blood stem cell transplant.

Prentice said more than 30,000 cord blood stem cell transplants have been done across the world. These stem cells have helped treat people with blood and bone marrow diseases, leukemia and genetic enzyme diseases, he said.