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Umbilical Cord Blood: New Wonder Drug?

Tuesday, 07 January 2014 03:19 PM

Blood found in the umbilical cord of newborns is increasingly being used to treat a range of diseases, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Transplants using the stem-cell-rich blood have already saved many lives of people with certain cancers and disorders of the blood, but researchers say new techniques offer even greater potential.
Scientists are studying whether cord blood or cord tissues can treat certain autoimmune disorders such as Type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, for instance, as well as congenital heart disease and cerebral palsy.
"The early data look very promising that this could be a useful new source of cells that could benefit a larger number of people," John Wagner, M.D., a professor of pediatrics and director of the blood and marrow transplant program at the University of Minnesota, told the Journal.
Cord blood, found in the placenta and umbilical cord of newborns, contains stem cells, which can proliferate and generate more specialized cells. Cord-blood transplants replenish so-called hematopoietic stem cells, found in bone marrow, that are destroyed by chemotherapy and radiation given to people with certain leukemias, lymphomas, and other diseases.
More than 30,000 cord-blood transplants have been performed since the first reported procedure in 1988.
Dr. Wagner said he sees broader applications for cord blood in autoimmune diseases, in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue — such diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and inflammatory bowel diseases.
Timothy Nelson, a physician at the Mayo Clinic, is also testing whether injecting cord-blood stem cells can help rebuild heart muscle in children born with congenital heart defects.
Another potential application for cord blood is cerebral palsy, a muscle disorder caused by an abnormality in brain development. Joanne Kurtzberg, who heads the pediatric blood and marrow transplant program at Duke University Medical Center, is testing whether intravenous infusion of cord blood lessens symptoms of cerebral palsy in pediatric patients, using their own cord blood banked at birth.
Public cord-blood banks around the country accept donated cord blood. More than 200 hospitals collect cord blood from babies whose mothers consent.  Some parents can also pay fees to bank and store their baby's cord blood with private, for-profit banks, for use by the baby or family members later in life.


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Scientists say umbilical cord of newborns has potential to treat a range of diseases.
Tuesday, 07 January 2014 03:19 PM
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