A COUPLE have stored their newborn baby’s cord blood and tissue in a bid to protect him and his sisters from a family history of health problems.

Kim and Paul Bromwich took the decision in the hope that stem cell storage will prepare their children for medical advances that could offer treatments for the rare degenerative condition ankylosing spondylitis (AS).

The couple from Haywards Heath approached Burgess Hill firm Cells4Life before Leo’s birth in August last year to arrange to have the procedure done.

AS is a rheumatic disease that affects the entire body, noticeably the spine.

While the symptoms can vary, they typically involve back pain and stiffness, pain and swelling in other parts of the body, such as the hips, knees and ribs, and fatigue and extreme tiredness.

These symptoms tend to develop gradually, usually over several months or years, and may come and go over time.

A relatively high proportion of AS patients express the HLA-B27 genotype, suggesting there is some genetic association.

Despite being a paediatric nurse at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton, Mrs Bromwich, 34, was unaware parents had the choice to store their own child’s cord blood.

The couple already had Grace, 10, and twins Tamsin and Rachel, seven, when they heard they were expecting a boy.

AS affects young males more often than girls so the couple did some research.

They discovered that stem cell therapy could potentially help alleviate pain by reducing inflammation and regenerating soft tissue.

However they also learned that while this would protect Leo, there was a strong chance his stem cells would be a perfect match for his elder sisters and help them as well.

Mrs Bromwich said: “There was never any doubt really and from the moment we learned more about stem cell banking our decision was made.

“It offers our family peace of mind knowing that not only Leo is protected, but there is a strong chance his stem cells offer some form of insurance to his sisters as well.

“There is no cure for AS, although treatments and medications can reduce symptoms and pain, so it is very difficult to know that your husband is in severe discomfort and be constantly concerned that this could be passed down to our Grace, Tamsin, Rachel, or Leo.

“The service offered by Cells4Life means we have safeguarded the future health of our children.”

Cells4Life chairman Wayne Channon said: “Stem cells are the building blocks of life and can differentiate into many specialised cell types within the body.

“This is why they could be so valuable in alleviating conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis. Cord blood is the youngest and most powerful source of stem cells that Leo will ever have, making his parent’s decision all the more important.”