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The Importance Of Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Transplant

08.07.2008 · Posted in Health Articles

If you, or a loved one is in need of a bone marrow or cord blood transplant, but immediate family cannot provide a good match, doctors have the option of searching the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) registry for an allogeneic transplant (donation outside family)rnrnUmbilical cord blood stem cells are commonly used to treat childhood leukemia for many years. However, only in recent years that adults with leukemia have been successfully treated with transplantation of cord blood stem cells from unrelated donors. One case is that of Stephen Sprague who was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) in 1995. Chemotherapy only kept the cancer under control for 17 months. In April 1997, he was in the final stage of the disease. He took part in a clinical trial to determine if adequate amount of cord blood stem cells could be harvested for a successful transplantation to an adult. In November 1997, he underwent a cord blood stem cell transplant and has been cancer free for over 9 years.rnrnIt may take months for the medical team to find a donor with a matching blood composition. With the patients cord blood available, the treatment is not delayed beyond a few days. In case the patients cord blood is not available, public cord blood banks have a vast resource of stem cells, which were donated by new parents. The cord blood banking system is highly computerized and one can search for the matching composition very quickly.rnrnCord blood transplant is a relatively new compared to bone marrow transplants The quantity of umbilical cord blood is limited. The amount of stem cells is very crucial for any treatment. A younger patient will require less stem cells compared to an older one. If for any reason the patient requires a second graft, he will have to take a donation from outside. This may lead to more complications.rnrnStem cells are slow. They take time to produce the required blood cells. Till then the patient runs severe risk of infections due to reduced immunity.There may be case where the stem cells are not be as healthy as expected after being preserved for so many years. Theoretically, cord blood can be preserved forever. In reality, no one is sure about how long a unit of cord blood can be saved without affecting its utility.rnrnIt is important to understand that some types of blood are more common than others, so finding the right match may take some time. Doctors and NMDP will work together to locate possible matches across the globe, but understanding that protein markers are inherited, some matches may be more difficult to locate than others.rnrnUnderstanding the cord blood transplant process, the factors involved, and the immediate need of the patient are all important for the patient and their family. However, a family can rest assured that doctors, and those at the NMDP are fervently seeking the best possible matches, so that care of the patient can be focused on during this process.

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