My name is Gabrielle Wanek and I’m an intern here at Mayo’s Todd and Karen Wanek Program for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. I had the opportunity to interview Susana Cantero Peral, the umbilical cord blood expert in the program to learn more about the work being done here.
Gabrielle: How long have you been in the program?
Susana: I’ve been with the program since 2011. The program had just started so it has been seven years already.
Gabrielle: What exactly do you study?
Susana: I focus on umbilical cord blood. I study how to process and store cells for future use and the cord blood’s composition. For example, I study what types of cells we have, which types of cells that we can use for our program, and the mechanisms of these cells. I explore why certain cells can be used for our clinical trials and look to better understand their biological activity.
Gabrielle: How do you collect the cord blood?
Susana: This is actually a very straight forward process. When the baby is born, and the baby is with mom, we clamp the umbilical cord and cut it. We then collect the cord blood while the placenta is still in utero. We sterilize the surface of the cord tissue, find the vein and we stick it with a needle that is attached to a bag. We are able to collect whatever is in the vein that way. Other people collect the cord blood while the placenta is no longer in utero.
Gabrielle: What do you do with the cord blood and how do you store it?
Susana: Once we collect the cord blood, we process it. Processing means separating the cells that we want for the trial and getting rid of the cells that we don’t need. Cord blood is composed of red cells, white cells, platelets and plasma. Those are the main components of the blood. We want to keep those monocytes and lymphocytes because we know that the stem cells are in that population. We don’t need root cells, platelets and we don’t need granulocytes. Once the cells are processed then we store them in nitrogen for further use. You freeze them and you can keep them like that for years. When you thaw them you can use them anytime. So we purify the blood and keep the cells that are important for the clinical trial.
Gabrielle: What about if you collect cord blood from somewhere else. Can you use that?
Susana: Unfortunately, because of the way that we process the cord blood, it has to be collected through our program. We also store our differently in small vials, because we keep the cells in a specific concentration for our clinical trials.
For anyone interested in learning more about umbilical cord blood collection, email the program at HLHS@mayo.edu.
The Todd and Karen Wanek Family Program for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) is a collaborative network of specialists bonded by the vision of finding solutions for individuals affected by congenital heart defects including HLHS. The specialized team is addressing the various aspects of these defects by using research and clinical strategies ranging from basic science to diagnostic imaging to regenerative therapies. Email the program at HLHS@mayo.edu to learn more.
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