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Stem Cell

            Treating Disease with Stem Cells This article was written by Dr. Gregory Hale, professor of Pediatrics at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, in response to questions posed by Scientific American Magazine regarding the treatment of certain diseases with cord blood stem cells. There is some additional information provided by Viacord, a medical service company that provides private family cord blood banking, processing, and research. Dr. Hale discussed the advantages of cord blood stem cell transplants, the results of several transplants, as well as the research that on-going in the field of stem cell transplantation. The blood that remains in the human umbilical cord blood following birth contains a rich source of hematopoietic progenitor cells known as "stem cells."" These stem cells are the master cells of the blood. They divide to make new red cells that supply oxygen, white blood cells that fight disease and infection, and platelets that facilitate healing. Doctors now have three sources of stem cells available to them: bone marrow, mobilized bone marrow or peripheral blood, and umbilical cord blood. Bone marrow has traditionally been used as a source of stem cells, but research is proving that cord blood may be an excellent alternative source. Cord blood can be utilized for the treatment of many diseases, including leukemia, sickle cell anemia, and Hodgkin's disease. The first successful cord blood transplant took place in 1988 when a newborn's cord blood was used in a life saving stem cell transplant for her older brother who had Fanconi anemia. Since then, there has been much research into the advantages of cord blood stem cells. Cord blood is much more readily available and poses no donor risk. The blood is simply collected from the placenta and umbilical cord after the baby is born and stored. The potential of expanding the ethnic diversity of the donor pool is greatly increased, since minorities are considerably under-represented in bone marrow transplant pools.

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