A wealth of possibilities

Senior research fellow Jeyakumar Masilamani processing umbilical cord tissue at the CellResearch laboratory.
Senior research fellow Jeyakumar Masilamani processing umbilical cord tissue at the CellResearch laboratory.PHOTO: CELLRESEARCH CORPORATION

By mining the umbilical cord lining, usually discarded when a woman gives birth, researchers have tapped into a rich source of stem cells versatile enough to transform into many of the body's cells.

A big advantage is that the cells do not have to be taken from days-old embryos - a controversial source of stem cells, which can transform into any cell the body needs.

Singapore company CellResearch Corporation is behind the discovery that stem cells can be harvested from the umbilical cord lining.

It has been granted 35 patents worldwide, including in the United States, Britain and China, for its process of collecting and cultivating the cells.

Its research has shown how such stem cells can transform into skin, bone and fat cells, among other cells, and it is working with 11 groups in Singapore and abroad to tap the potential of such stem cells to treat ailments ranging from Parkinson's to heart disease and hearing loss.

The company has partnered cord blood banks to provide postnatal tissue storage, and has a skin-care range Calecim - made from the proteins and nutrients which the stem cells live in.

CellResearch also owns one of the world's largest private skin, scar and keloid cell libraries to provide researchers with processed tissue and cells.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 28, 2015, with the headline 'A WEALTH OF POSSIBILITIES'. Print Edition | Subscribe