Umbilical Cord Stem Cells are Saving Babies Without Embryonic Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 11, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Umbilical Cord Stem Cells are Saving Babies Without Embryonic Research Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 11, 2005

Ft. Lauderdale, FL ( — The use of stem cells obtained from umbilical cord blood without destroying human embryos is already saving lives. And for a newborn baby in Florida, the less controversial stem cells mean a new lease on life.

Shakera Neal’s first child Alandee died before he was four months old because of an inherited immune-system disorder. When Neal became pregnant again with Aleasia, she knew there was a chance the problem would repeat itself.

After doctors diagnosed Aleasia with the same disorder, doctors had an idea on how to crate a normal immune system for her.

Physicians at Jackson Children’s Hospital in Miami use a transplant of stem cells from umbilical cord blood of a closely matched donor given by the parents of another newborn.

The procedure saved Aleasia’s life and now she is a healthy and happy two year-old girl.

"I thank God," Neal told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper.

According to the Sun-Sentinel report, some 700 such transplants have been performed since 2001 at university medical centers.

Legislation in Congress would help greatly expand that number but advocates of embryonic stem cell research are holding it up because they favor a bill to spend taxpayer funds on that form of study, even though embryonic stem cells have never saved a patient’s life.

Dr. Gary Kleiner, assistant professor of pediatrics and co-director of stem cell transplants at University of Miami Miller School of Medicine says the umbilical cord stem cells are very useful because they are easier to use and have the same properties as bone marrow cells.

They can be used to treat patients with leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell disease, and some rare genetic diseases by replacing diseased cells with healthy ones, he told the Sun-Sentinel.

The National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine estimates that some 11,700 people could benefit annually from the transplants if more donations of umbilical cord blood were encouraged.