Biocyte Corp. on Tuesday was awarded a U.S. patent forcryopreserved (frozen) neonatal stem cells, which the companyhopes will replace bone marrow transplants in the treatment ofcancer and other diseases.

The stem cells, obtained from the umbilical cords and placentalblood of newborns, are frozen in such a way that they can bestored for decades prior to thawing for use, said Kenneth I.Moch, Biocyte president.

Stem cells differentiate into all types of human blood cells. Inadults, stem cells are found in the bone marrow. When stemcells are destroyed due to radiation therapy or disease, thebone marrow must be replaced.

The current treatment, a bone marrow transplant, costs morethan $150,000 and is difficult to do, said Moch. Direct injectionof stored stem cells, which then regenerate the marrow, wouldbe the alternative.

By 1992, Biocyte plans to establish a cord blood bank, whichwill store a newborns' stem cells until they are needed by thedonor or a tissue-matched relative.

Biocyte, based in New York, will charge a one-time storage feeof about $1,000, said Moch. He added that more than 800,000babies are born in the United States each year to families withincomes of more than $50,000.

By 1993, Biocyte also plans to set up a bank from which anyindividual requiring a bone marrow replacement can obtain theappropriate type of stem cells. More than 9,000 people die eachyear before suitable donors for a transplant can be found, Mochsaid.

Moch said he was unaware of any other companies developingcryopreserved stem cells for transplants. He added that Biocytehas participated in all five human cryopreserved stem celltransplants carried out so far.

-- Carol Talkington Verser, Ph.D. Special to BioWorld

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.