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Wednesday 20th June 2018

Bone marrow transplant hope

19th January 2010

Scientists in the US have made a breakthrough in treating blood cancers using blood taken from umbilical cords.

stem cell

In the recent study, the researchers were able to make a life-saving blood transplant.

The breakthrough could profoundly affect the way blood cancers are treated worldwide.

Colleen Delaney of the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington said that, when a baby was born, people could save the cells from the umbilical cord in order to save someone's life.

She said that study showed that scientists could manipulate cells in the laboratory, infuse them in patients, and cut white blood cell recovery time in half.

Current treatment methods use bone marrow transplants, which take longer and have lower success rates.

The researchers hope that the so-called master cells contained in umbilical cord blood could be universally used in treatment regimes.

Patients develop a need for bone marrow transplants when aggressive treatment kills off bone marrow cells in cancer patients.

However, scientists can not always find matching donors for bone marrow.

Even when a donor has been selected, there is no guarantee that the patient's body will not reject the transplanted bone marrow.

The cells extracted from umbilical cords do not have the same characteristics as bone marrow cells.

They are more universal, and do not need to be matched to their patients.

The main reason why umbilical cord cells have not been used for a wide variety of purposes is that a single umbilical cord does not contain enough cells.

Now, there may be a way to multiply umbilical cord cells in a labratory setting using a 'signalling pathway' that causes stem cells to grow.

Leukaemia Research scientific director David Grant said that the holy grail of stem cell research was to have unlimited numbers of 'neutral' stem cells which could be given to any patient.

He said that the finding was a promising development.

Henny Braund, chief executive of the Anthony Nolan Trust, said that umbilical cord blood was still very much an untapped resource in the UK.

He said he believed that the UK needed a properly resourced umbilical cord collection programme.

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