February 04, 2015

Over the past several decades and thanks to advances in stem cell research, umbilical cord blood stem cells have been proven effective in the treatment of numerous diseases, disorders and illnesses. Many types of hematologic disorders, anemia specifically, fall into that category. Patients suffering from severe cases of sickle cell anemia, Fanconi anemia, thalassemia, and other types of blood disorders typically rely on a lifetime of anemia treatments to regulate the adverse effects of their disease. Some of these anemia treatments include regular blood and iron transfusions and in severe cases, prolonged or recurrent hospital stays. Some patients live debilitating lives because of the diseases. But today, cord blood stem cell transplants are giving those patients options and the potential to be cured.

The announcement in the late 1980s that cord blood stem cells were used to successfully cure a 5-year-old child of a severe case of Fanconi’s anemia was groundbreaking. This meant that other anemia patients who had little luck previously now had renewed hope that they too could be cured. Since that time, multiple studies and clinical trials have been conducted to confirm and expand on this discovery, including one that concluded in 20031 that looked at the use of allogenic cord blood for transplants. For this study, 44 children between the ages of 1 and 20 who had sickle cell anemia or thalassemia and suffering from significant disease manifestations or complications took part. Each was given an exact HLA matched cord blood transplant from a sibling donor along with different immunosuppressive drugs and prophylaxis for graft vs. host disease. At the end of the 24-month study, all participants were alive and the majority of them, 36 of the 44, remained disease free. The study also showed a lower rate of GVHD as compared to studies of similar nature using bone marrow.

As evidenced by this study and others, cord blood has the power to heal. By virtue of its versatile ability to remain effective even with HLA mismatching, it is an ideal source for allogenic stem cell transplants. It is especially useful for patients from a diverse or mixed racial background who would otherwise have difficulty in locating a suitable HLA match for stem cell transplants. Expectant parents are taking the proactive step more and more to help ensure their children have these options when it comes to their medical future. They do this through umbilical cord blood banking. Saving your child’s cord blood stem cells at birth via cord blood banking means you have made an inimitable investment in the future health of your children.

  • Locatelli F, Rocha V, Reed W, et al. (2003) Related umbilical cord blood transplantation in patients with thalassemia and sickle cell disease. Blood101:2137–2143.
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