January 26, 2015

Cord blood stem cells are known to treat or cure more than 80 diseases and disorders. Research in this field is continuous and new discoveries are made all the time, meaning that number of treatable conditions is sure to grow with time and continued advancements in technology. While the growth of the cord blood field is exciting and fast moving today, its success can all be traced back to one significant treatment success made a little over 25 years ago.

In the 1980s, cord blood banking was not around. The need for this remarkable service had yet to be realized by parents and doctors. At the time, stem cell research was just beginning to tap into the vast potential of the stem cells contained in a baby’s left over umbilical cord blood. Researchers knew its uses were sound in theory but it had yet to be proven effective in human medical treatments. That changed, however, in 1988. It was that year that cord blood stem cells experienced its first pioneering triumph.

That feat was the first successful umbilical cord blood stem cell transplant, which was performed on a six-year-old boy suffering from a severe form of Fanconi anemia. (Fanconi anemia is an inherited blood disorder that inhibits bone marrow from producing the necessary supply of healthy blood cells, which are responsible for so many of the body’s crucial life-sustaining functions – transporting oxygen, fighting infections and blood clotting. A person with this type of anemia is susceptible to many severe health issues, including leukemia.)

Prior to the transplant procedure, the boy underwent a chemotherapy treatment to rid his body of the damaged bone marrow cells. He then received a unit of cord blood from his newborn sister, whose cord blood had been saved and cryogenically preserved following her birth. The baby, who underwent genetic testing and HLA-typing during the mother’s late stages of pregnancy, was not a carrier of the disease and was a perfect genetic match to her brother.

Following the treatment, the stem cells in the transplanted cord blood began to repopulate the boy’s blood cell levels and he was declared cured of the disease. A cure meant he no longer had to endure the regular exhaustive and invasive anemia treatments he’d suffered through his entire life.

The cord blood transplant was a risk, but with its success, this yet-unproven medical procedure changed not only the child’s life, but that of the stem cell medical research field in general. This procedure, which eliminated this child’s the need for a lifetime anemia treatments, also left an indelible mark in the medical research field. So far, it has just continued to expand and improve at an unbelievable rate and shows no sign of slowing. This discovery helped usher in a new service for expectant parents – umbilical cord blood banking. With the introduction of cord blood banking, any and EVERY family can ensure their children will have access to, and a guarantee of, genetically matching stem cells should they ever be needed.

Cord blood banking and stem cell research are changing lives. It’s a priceless and once-in-a-lifetime gift you can give your child.

FaceBook  Twitter