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Umbilical cord blood can prevent metabolic disorders

Umbilical cord blood transplants can help save the lives of babies born with inherited metabolic disorders.

Umbilical cord blood can prevent metabolic disorders

Umbilical cord blood transplants can help save the lives of babies born with inherited metabolic disorders. Every year hundreds of infants die from organ failure and other metabolic disorders. Though these disorders are rare when taken individually - some of them occur in only one in a million births - but if put together, they form a sizable number. Usually, bone marrow transplants are the only option for such infants, but these are difficult to get and the donors are rare. To prevent this from happening, umbilical cord blood can be donated at the time of birth. Cord blood contains immature cells known as stem cells that help in restoring the missing or damaged cells in a patient. These stem cells are the body's master cells and there are of several kinds. Stem cells from the bone marrow or cord blood are partly differentiated, or transformed, and can be used to restore the immune systems of patients undergoing cancer treatment. To examine the efficacy of cord blood transplant, researchers at the Duke University in North Carolina studied 159 children with inherited metabolic disorders who received transplants of cord blood from unrelated newborns between the years 1995 and 2007. The results showed that more than 88 percent of patients who got cord blood transplants before they began to show too many symptoms of illness lived for at least a year. There are many advantages of using cord blood over bone marrow transplant. Not only is cord blood more readily available as compared to bone marrow, there is also a decreased risk of complications, including a lower incidence of serious and potentially fatal graft-versus-host disease, which occurs when donor cells perceive a recipient's tissues and organs as foreign. Thus, umbilical cord blood can be used as a transplant option in babies born with inherited metabolic disorders.
Reuters,
December 2007
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