Evidence for umbilical cord blood (UCB) cell therapies as a potential intervention for neurological diseases is emerging. To date, most existing trials worked with allogenic cells, as the collection of autologous UCB from high-risk patients is challenging. In obstetric emergencies the collection cannot be planned. In preterm infants, late cord clamping and anatomic conditions may reduce the availability. The aim of the present study was to assess the feasibility of UCB collection in neonates at increased risk of brain damage. Infants from four high-risk groups were included: newborns with perinatal hypoxemia, gestational age (GA) ≤30 + 0 weeks and/or birthweight <1,500 g, intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), or monochorionic twins with twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS). Feasibility of collection, quantity and quality of obtained UCB [total nucleated cell count (TNC), volume, sterility, and cell viability], and neonatal outcome were assessed. UCB collection was successful in 141 of 177 enrolled patients (hypoxemia n = 10; GA ≤30 + 0 weeks n = 54; IUGR n = 71; TTTS n = 6). Twenty-six cases were missed. The amount of missed cases per month declined over the time. Volume of collected UCB ranged widely (median: 24.5 ml, range: 5.0-102 ml) and contained a median of 0.77 × 108 TNC (range: 0.01-13.0 × 108). TNC and UCB volume correlated significantly with GA. A total of 10.7% (19/177) of included neonates developed brain lesions. To conclude, collection of UCB in neonates at high risk of brain damage is feasible with a multidisciplinary approach and intensive training. High prevalence of brain damage makes UCB collection worthwhile. Collected autologous UCB from mature neonates harbors a sufficient cell count for potential therapy. However, quality and quantity of obtained UCB are critical for potential therapy in preterm infants. Therefore, for extremely preterm infants alternative cell sources such as UCB tissue should be investigated for autologous treatment options because of the low yield of UCB.
Keywords: autologous UCB; collection of UCB; perinatal brain damage; perinatal hypoxemia; preterm infants; umbilical cord blood (UCB).