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April 21, 2010

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Umbilical cords enlisted to fight disease

BUOYED by success in treating leukemia and immune deficiencies, the Shanghai Cord Bank is teaming up with local medical experts to study the use of stem cells in newborns' umbilical cords upon patients with non-hemorrhage diseases.

Bank officials said they will conduct clinical research on some 140 diseases, including nerve system ailments and diabetes.

The officials spoke at a seminar in the city yesterday.

Cord blood and bone marrow are used in similar ways. The key ingredient in both are stem cells. Stem cells from umbilical cord blood are less mature than those in adult bone marrow, less prone to rejection by the recipient and more active in developing into different types of cells.

The bank gave 38 units of umbilical cord samples to 33 patients with leukemia in China last year. Twenty-two patients were cured.

In 2009, the bank received a total of 185 applications looking for matching samples. Over 98 percent, or 182 patients found some degree of a match.

"The high matching rate gave evidence for pregnant women to keep newborns' umbilical cord blood while delivering the baby," said Chen Liang, an official from the bank, which has collected about 20,000 cord blood since officially opening in 2006.

The bank made great progress last year, when it collected 3,504 samples, which consisted of donated samples and samples that parents paid to reserve.

However, "the quantity is still too small to meet the requirement of patients," Chen said.

About 40,000 to 50,000 Chinese are diagnosed with leukemia every year, half of them children. Only about 1,000 are able to receive a stem cell transplant because of the difficulty in finding a matching donor.


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