A heart-warming real life story in the Daily Mail today addresses the important role of cord blood transplants in treating children with leukaemia.
Cord blood transplants use stem cell harvested from the umbilical cord at birth in place of stem cells harvested from an adult donor.
The advantage is that there is not such a strong need to match the donor with the patient as cord blood cells are not immune primed. This avoids terrible side effects such as rejection and GvHD (Graft versus Host Disease) linked to regular stem cell transplants.
Cord blood transplants are increasingly used for a small but significant number of children with leukaemia who don’t respond to standard chemotherapy.
The Daily Mail features a story about young Nathan, 3, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), the most common form of childhood cancer, in 2010 and who may need a transplant if his condition deteriorates.
Doctors were recently able to harvest cord blood stem cells on the birth of Nathan’s baby brother, which will be stored in case Nathan requires them.
The important point that the Daily Mail do not mention is that cord blood banking is available on the NHS on the birth of a child to a family where there is a sibling who has a condition that is potentially treatable using stem cell transplantation.
This is known as ‘directed’ storage and although not all hospitals routinely collect cord blood for banking, the NHS will provide funding to allow any family, anywhere in the UK to have this done.
Tilly - Science Communications team