Umbilical cord blood helps to save lives

SOUTH BEND, Ind.--- In the 1970's, researchers discovered that a newborn's umbilical cord blood contained special stem cells that could help fight certain diseases.

More than 30 years later doctors are still experimenting and learning more about the use of cord blood.

Amanda Canale doesn't take time with her daughter and niece for granted.

She's just happy to feel good.

"I've been in the hospital, and I've been sick my whole life," said Amanda.

Amanda was born with a rare blood disorder that required daily shots.

"Basically, I have no white blood cells. I have no immune system at all," said Amanda

At 23 she developed Leukemia and was given two weeks to live.

She desperately needed a Bone Marrow Transplant, but family members weren't matches.

Her doctor suggested an Umbilical Cord Blood Transplant.

"The cord was a perfect match, and it was available, so it was the right solution for her," said Dr. Edward Agura, the Medical Director of Bone Marrow Transplantation at Baylor University’s Medical Center.

Cord blood contains stem cells that regenerate. Mothers of newborns can save their child's own blood or donate it.

More than 30,000 transplants have been performed worldwide, but because the blood comes from a tiny newborn, there's not much of it.

"The cord blood is rare, precious and few, and yet it is more potent in its ability to grow," said Dr. Agura

Now doctors at Baylor are treating patients by combining cord blood from multiple donors.

They've found this increases the number of stem cells and provides faster recovery.

Amanda’s transfusion was from a baby whose mother donated six years earlier. The procedure completely cured her cancer and blood disorder.

"Sometimes I have to sit back and think it's not real because I’m used to taking shots every day. I'm used to being sick," said Amanda.

Now she can enjoy time with a little girl who's glad to have a healthy mom.

"I think she's awesome and that she's really strong,” said Amanda’s daughter Deanna Canale.

Experts say more patients could be helped if babies' cord blood was not thrown away, since it is in 96 percent of the nation's births.

On average, it costs about $1,200 up front and $100 per year to privately store cord blood.

However, mothers can donate to a public bank for free.

REPORT #2102

BACKGROUND: When you are expecting, you have many decisions to make, for example, banking umbilical cord blood. Cord blood banking basically means collecting and storing the blood from within the umbilical cord after the baby is born. Cord blood contains blood-forming stem cells, which are potentially useful for treating diseases that require stem cell transplants like leukemia or lymphoma, aplastic anemia, severe sickle cell disease, and severe combined immunodeficiency. There are two types of banks that store cord blood:
* Public banks collect donated cord blood for research or for use by anyone who may need it. There is usually no charge associated with this service. After birth, blood is collected, anonymously marked, and sent to a public bank to potentially save the life of another child one day.
* Private banks store cord blood for personal use by the family. There is a fee associated with this service. People who have a family history of disease that can be treated with stem cell transplants sometimes consider this option.
Like hospital blood banks, cord blood banks are regulated by the FDA, which has developed standards regulating future cord-blood collection and storage. (Source:
DISEASES TREATED WITH STEM CELLS: The lifesaving power of cord blood and the regenerative healing potential of cord blood and cord tissue is no longer a secret. The primary type of stem cells are hematopoietic stem cells, which create blood and immune cells. Transplant medicines are used to treat more than 80 diseases, including various cancers and blood, immune and metabolic disorders. More than 30,000 cord blood stem cell transplants are performed worldwide to date. There are currently no proven therapies, but cord tissue is being evaluated in clinical trials as a therapeutic agent for optimizing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and in regenerative medicine applications for their ability to treat various diseases and repair tissue damage. Cord blood stem cells are used in many proven therapies today. More than 200 clinical trials are evaluating cord blood stem cells to advance treatment options in transplant medicine and emerging regenerative applications. (Source:
? For More Information, Contact:

Edward Agura, MD
Medical Director of Bone Marrow Transplantation
Baylor University Medical Center
Dallas, TX

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