There was nothing unusual about the birth of a baby girl in Sacramento one Friday afternoon late in October, 2012.  This birth was special, however, because just a few hours later both Priscilla Williams (BME & DEB graduate student) and Eduardo Silva (BME & DEB Assistant Professor) were busy isolating stem cells from the baby’s umbilical cord blood. The Silva Lab is one of the first recipients of cord blood from the recently established Umbilical Cord Blood Collection Program.

The Silva Lab’s current project will isolate vascular progenitor cells from the cord blood with the premise that they can investigate and develop new strategies to actively direct their homing in vivo. In the near future, Silva’s group will isolate not only vascular progenitor cells but also other progenitor and stem cell populations. For example, in the next couple of months the Silva Lab and Scott Simon’s Lab will collaborate to develop strategies to isolate hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) and HSC-containing Lin−Sca-1+c-Kit+ (LSK) from cord blood.

“The ability to isolate and store stem cells within the Biomedical Engineering Department offers not only many new research opportunities for the Silva Lab but also for all the biomedical engineering community,” said Prof. Silva.

The Umbilical Cord Blood Collection Program (UCBCP), administered by the UC Davis Health System, is a new statewide public program designed to capture the genetic diversity of Californians through collection of cord blood units (CBUs) for unrelated transplantation. The stem cells in cord blood have been used to treat and cure patients who have various diseases such as blood disorders, cancers such as leukemia, and some immune system disorders. The research done with stem cells can be vital to figuring out the cures and/or treatments for even more diseases.