For Immediate Release

May 24, 2018

Media Contact

AABB Communications
Kerri Wachter

16th International Cord Blood Symposium Features Investigational Uses for Cord Blood Stem Cells

Experts to Convene in San Diego to Discuss Key Issues for Cord Blood.

Bethesda, Md. – Umbilical cord blood (UCB) has offered hope to thousands of patients since the first successful transplant in 1988 to treat Fanconi anemia. The potential for UCB-based therapies continues to expand as researchers continue investigating cord-blood-derived stem cells for the treatment of a growing number of diseases.

The 16th International Cord Blood Symposium, to be held June 14-16 in San Diego, will feature research and perspectives from experts on the use of stem cells from UCB and other perinatal tissues (such as the cord and placenta) for the treatment of blood cancers, infections, brain injuries, immune system disorders and many others.

Gary Gilkeson, MD, will discuss research into the use of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC) derived from cord tissue as a treatment for autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). With the potential to affect almost any organ, a widely variable prognosis and a menu of standard therapies with potentially serious side effects, SLE is a particularly challenging disease to treat.

“We do have drugs that patients respond to, but there is still a large percentage of patients who do not respond, and these drugs are relatively toxic,” said Gilkeson, professor of medicine in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina. “The big goal is to find treatments that are not as toxic, especially because most of the patients are young women in their childbearing years. We want to avoid drugs that may affect their fertility.”

MSC have been shown to suppress the immune system and were first used clinically to treat acute graft-versus-host disease, a common but serious complication that can occur following a hematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cell transplant. MSC have since been investigated for the treatment of autoimmune disorders, including Sjogren’s syndrome, systemic sclerosis and dermatomyositis/polymyositis.

The meeting will also highlight important questions in cord blood transplantation, such as whether it is necessary to match cord blood units at the human leukocyte antigen- (HLA-) C locus and when this might not be as important. Allele-specific matching at several loci has had significant implications for improving outcomes for unrelated adult donor hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT), while UCB grafts have traditionally been matched at HLA-A and HLA-B at the antigen level.

In a key session, Claudio Brunstein, MD, PhD, and Karen Ballen, MD, will discuss questions about how transplant centers are using HLA-C with the aim of generating an open discussion about HLA-C matching. Brunstein is the Director of the Adult Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program, Medical Director of the Unrelated Donor Transplantation Program, and an Associate Professor of Medicine in Division of Hematology, Oncology and Transplantation at the University of Minnesota. Ballen is the Chief of Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplant and a Professor of Medicine at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

The precarious status of the national cord blood inventory and optimizing the use of nonclinical cord blood products to help ensure cord blood bank sustainability will also be explored. ICBS is an open forum for professionals to participate in meaningful and thought-provoking discussions, learn about new research in cord blood therapies and network with top-industry experts. Both the experienced CEO and the new technologist will leave with innovated and timely solutions, as well as knowledge about the latest clinical results, technical advancements and the tools for success as the field continues to expand.

ICBS will be held June 14-16, 2018, at the Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa. Visit for more information. Meeting preview highlights are available at

About AABB

AABB is an international, not-for-profit association representing individuals and institutions involved in the fields of transfusion medicine and biotherapies. The association is committed to improving health through the development and delivery of standards, accreditation and educational programs that focus on optimizing patient and donor care and safety. AABB membership includes physicians, nurses, scientists, researchers, administrators, medical technologists and other health care providers. AABB members are located in more than 80 countries and AABB accredits institutions in more than 50 countries.