Police to escort stem cell transport from Leiden to Amsterdam

Hematopoietic stem cell
Hematopoietic stem cell. (Photo: Fnaq / Wikimedia Commons)

A large shipment of stem cells will be slowly and carefully transported from Leiden to Amsterdam, under police escort, on Wednesday. This is expected to cause some inconvenience for motorists on the A4 highway, where at least one lane will be closed, a spokesperson for blood bank Sanquin told NU.nl.

The transport will start around noon, the spokesperson said.

In the cities the transport will move very slowly. On the highway, it will drive at a speed between 60 and 80 kilometers per hour. "On the road the truck carrying the stem cells can not bump too much, because then the nitrogen escapes", the spokesperson said. "The nitrogen ensures that the stem cells stay at a temperature of -160 degrees. If nitrogen escapes, it needs to be replenished. We've already figured out where it could be done on the way, but we'd prefer to avoid it naturally."

Rijkswaterstaat could not confirm the transport to ANP. "We have not received an application for this special transport", a spokesperson said. "That can still happen. If measures must be taken on the road, we must of course be informed. We also do not know anything about the lane that is being closed."

Stem cells are collected from the umbilical cord at birth. Expectant mothers can register to have it done. The process is not burdensome for mother or child, but very important, the Sanquin spokesperson said to NU.nl. "In the umbilical cord of a newborn baby there are valuable stem cells. They are kept for patients. This especially involves cancer patients in whom chemotherapy destroyed their stem cells. Without new stem cells, they often don't survive."

Around 1,500 umbilical cord donations are taken each year at the OLVG in Amsterdam, the Bravis Hospital in Bergen op Zoom, and the Reinier de Graaf Hospital in Delft. These stem cells used to be kept in Leiden, but Sanquin has been concentrating its activities on its head office in Amsterdam for a number of years.