Study Finds Umbilical Cord Cells Cure Blood Disorder
Ninety-one percent of children suffering from the genetic blood disorder thalassemia can be cured through a transfusion of umbilical cord blood from a sibling, according to a study released by Children's Hospital and Research Center Oakland, the Oakland Tribune reports.
Researchers also found that the umbilical cord blood transfusions helped cure 82% of children with sickle cell anemia, a hereditary blood disorder most prevalent in people of African descent.
The procedure's major limitation is that only about 25% of siblings are donor matches, according to the Tribune.
The study, which tracked 40 children, supported recent findings that umbilical cord blood transplants had a slightly higher success rate and fewer complications than bone marrow transplants, a procedure typically used to cure thalassemia.
Mark Walters, director of the hospital's blood and marrow transplant program, said umbilical cord blood is easer to obtain than bone marrow, which must be surgically removed.
Walters added that umbilical cord blood cells are 50% less likely to attack the host because they have undeveloped immune systems.
About 2 million people in the U.S. carry the genetic trait for thalassemia, and about 1,000 people have the full-blown disease, which is most prevalent in Asians, according to hospital officials (Artz, Oakland Tribune, 10/8).