NEW HAVEN — Most people don’t realize that the largest stem cell recovery firm in the United States has its headquarters in New Haven. This is where Life Line Stem Cell, owned by New Haven native Terri Tibbot and partners Susan Wills and Brian Tibbot, administers placenta, cord blood and amniotic fluid (afterbirth) collections from 30 birth hospitals around the state for use in treating burn victims, wound treatment and transplants for those suffering from leukemia.
“It’s important to explain that we do not participate in the collection of embryonic stem cells,” Tibbot said. “We, in fact, support giving birth, live babies, healthy moms and babies and what can be accomplished medically with the afterbirth and blood cord. The moms and their babies are the heroes in this whole process and 96% of mothers across the state give us the approval to take their life-saving placenta and umbilical cord blood instead of having it discarded. The mothers have, in fact, been very altruistic and are eager to help after the birth of their babies and willingly make the choice to donate.
“Studies over the past couple decades have discovered more and more applications for the tissue, the fluid and blood cord. The Warton’s jelly (insulator in the cord), for instance, literally is full of amazing properties that can be used on ulcers, repeat surgeries to reduce scarring and adhesions and on wounds that won’t heal. Burn victims heal in weeks instead of months. In addition, these non-embryonic stem cells can enhance the lives of people affected by cancer, multiple sclerosis, sickle cell anemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Crohn’s disease, lupus, Parkinson’s disease, eye injuries and spinal cord injuries.”
In explaining the process, Tibbot said her hospital representatives present mothers who are about to deliver with a brochure detailing how the placenta and umbilical cord will be used. If they consent to let LLSC take the placenta, they then fill out a medical history survey and an FDA approved consent that is faxed to the New Haven office.
After the birth, the umbilical cord, the cord blood, the amniotic fluid and the placenta are immediately packed in ice and sent by Federal Express to one of the two cord blood processing centers as well as other tissue processors in the country where the cells are separated and the tissue is processed. Processing must be done within 40 hours of the birth. “Some mothers,” Tibbot said, “have donated on multiple occasions. Some as many as three times!”
Once the hemopoetic stem cells are separated in the cord blood by the lab, the information is entered into “Be The Match,” a national data base in Washington, D.C. Oncologists seeking a match for their surgical patients can access the information to find the specific blood type and tissue needed.
LLSC is in the process of moving from 720 Broadway to a larger space (17,000 square feet) in the Continental Diamond building across from the Allen County Public Library on Hartzell Street. One of the reasons the office is moving is because over the last 10 years since the company started it has consented approximately 33,000 Indiana moms per year. Government regulations state that the records on transplantable tissues and cells must be kept for 16 years.
“Because most other states don’t have tissue recovery agencies like ours,” Tibbot said, “we have received requests to set up a similar programs for them. At the present, Indiana is our priority, but we hope to expand into Ohio, Illinois and Texas in the next five years. In the United States there are approximately 220,000 banked cord blood units but the need is over 550,000.”
After graduating from New Haven High School, Tibbot studied biology at Vincennes University and at Indiana University. She earned a master’s degree in nutrition from the University of Alabama. She worked in the St. Joseph Hospital lab before starting LLSC to be part of the regenerative medicine movement. The company operated out of a small office at Delmar Plaza for five years before moving to Broadway in 2014.
“The potential for saving and enhancing lives with the blood and tissue collected after the birth of a healthy baby that otherwise would have been destroyed is huge,” Tibbot said. “The best part of our job is knowing that by providing this donation service, one more child or adult will have the chance to live a full life.”