Children struck with the genetic disease of sickle-cell or thalassemia (a hemoglobin abnormality), were cured after receiving an umbilical cord blood transplant from their siblings. Ninety percent of the 43 children in the study were cured. The results were reported at the 35th annual convention held by the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America and the National Institutes of Health in Washington, on September 20, 2007.
One of the patients, Matthew Damm, was born with thalassemia requiring a transfusion every few weeks starting when he was 6 weeks old. He also had a needle inserted in his stomach to extract excess iron from his body, almost every night. Matthew underwent a transplant of stem cells from his baby sister's umbilical cord two years ago. Today Matt is an energetic 7 year old who knows that his little sister Hannah saved his life.
The biggest drawback to eliminating this difficult disease is finding enough cord blood donors to provide the wide range of tissue matches necessary. Michigan passed a law last year that would establish a network of cord blood stem cell banks as well as increase public awareness as to the benefits of donating cord blood at birth, however due to our fiscal crisis it is not funded.
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