Can’t Find A Stem Cell Donor Match? Have You Considered Umbilical Cord Blood?

As reported in Stem Cells News; finding the right donor for people in need of bone marrow transplants can be very tricky. This is because finding the correct match between a donor and a patient is a very precise science, making it quite unlikely to find a donor outside one’s family.

However, as the family of Elmor Bonilla found out, there may be a new vessel to extract stem cells from- umbilical cord blood.
Before they found this, Elmor and his family were slim on options. Elmor had been diagnosed with Krabbe disease, a rare disease that presents at birth with likely fatal outcomes.

Krabbe Disease

Krabbe disease is a rare neurological disorder that is very severe, usually developing before the patient’s first birthday. The disease is known as a leukodystrophy because of the deteroriated myelin, what covers the nerve’s to ensure speedy communication. This causes symptoms such as muscle weakness, stiffness, irritability, delayed development, learning delays, fevers, and eat issues. As it goes on, some tasks like chewing and breathing become harder, and more severe symptoms appear such as seizures and vision difficulty. Patients rarely make it past their second birthday.

Elmor’s Transplant

The doctor and families had just one hope for Elmor- a bone marrow transplant, for which they’d need to find a match for him urgently.
Finding a bone marrow match isn’t like matching blood types. Rather successful outcomes depend on matching patient’s human leukocyte antigen (HLA), which is much more specific. It’s common that even family members will match as donors- as was the case for young Elmor. His odds of finding a match were 30%, not particularly satisfying for the family of a toddler.
Instead- they tried something more innovative, umbilical cord blood. This similarly contains stem cells, but luckily for Elmor, it does not require such careful matches like bone marrow does. This is expected to make such transplants more accessible because matches won’t be so few and far between. In a study at Duke University, researchers discovered that when children were given unmatched umbilical cord blood, they still did comparably to those who received the match bone marrow transplants from donors outside the family. The specialist Dr. Vinod Prasad said,“Cord blood can be as good as bone marrow transplantation.”
For Elmor, the umbilical cord blood was just what they needed. He is now two and much improved, thanks to the success of his transplant.

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