Croydon Health Services NHS Trust has signed a ground-breaking deal that will see a charity provide the means to collect, process and store stem cells extracted from umbilical cord blood and tissue in its hospital.

Precious Cells Miracle, the charitable arm of stem cell technologies provider Precious Cells Group, will provide the staff, technology and specialised equipment necessary to perform sterile collections of cord blood, for storage in the Public Bank or privately in its own facility. 

The novel partnership, which shouldn’t cost the NHS a penny, aims to address the significant underfunding of UK stem cell banking, while generating revenues close to £2 million for Croydon Health Services NHS Trust from a share of private-storage profits.

Also, the group is hoping to instil its collection centres in around 90 other Trusts, thus making a significant contribution to the government’s target of banking 50,000 stem cells by 2016, as well as enabling enhanced services and additional revenue potentially worth around £180 million for the NHS.

UK lagging behind 

Currently, the UK’s cord blood stem call banking capabilities and uptake are lagging way behind many of the country’s European peers.

“For too long the UK has lagged behind the rest of Europe in terms of investment in cord blood stem cell collection and banking and research into stem cell technologies, which has had significant negative impact on the development of our understanding of stem cell therapies and consequently the number of lives that can be saved,” said Husein Salem, chief executive of the Precious Cells Group. 

The initiative, he says, not only seeks to address this but also to better educate people on the availability and potential benefits of stem cell banking so that they can make informed decisions.

Many scientists believe that future advances in medical technology will use stem cells to cure a number of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancer. Though there remains considerable scepticism and mistrust about the practice, not to mention the surrounding ethical issues.