The hematopoietic stem cell transplant from a compatible sibling is the best source of stem cells for an ailing child. There have been 500 transplants between siblings with excellent results in hematological disorders (malignant or not).
Leukemia is a malignancy of the bone marrow and is associated with excessive and uncontrolled proliferation of abnormal white blood cells, with a simultaneous and gradual reduction in the production of normal blood cells. Easy fatigue, anemia, fever, infections and bleeding episodes in the skin or in the mucous membranes are common symptoms of the disease.
- Hematopoietic umbilical cord blood stem cells of a newborn saved the life of his older brother who suffered from leukemia. Keegan Doheney was diagnosed with leukemia when he was only 2-years old. Although the disease had gone into remission, the diagnosis was not encouraging three years later. The hopes of the parents rested on Keegan’s smaller sibling whose umbilical cord blood stem cells were banked at birth. The two children were compatible and the transplant was successful, as evidenced by the fact that Keegan is healthy nine years after the treatment.
Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
- Hank Heacock, the sixth child of a family offrom New Jersey, was diagnosed at an early age with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, one of the most common types of malignancy in children. The disease is associated with the deterioration of the central nervous system. The child's mother, already in her second month of another pregnancy when the disease was diagnosed, was encouraged by one of the attending doctors to bank the stem cells of her baby, at birth. The mother followed the advice and the stem cells were banked.
Hank underwent chemotherapy for over 3-years. When it was decided that he was ready to accept a bone marrow transplant, a histocompatibility test requested by the doctors indicated that two brothers, aged 3 and 5, were in fact compatible with Hank. Although the older sibling could have easily provided bone marrow, it was decided instead, to administer the hematopoietic umbilical cord stem cells of the younger sibling which were banked at birth. The doctors chose this transplant unit because it could improve the results of the transplantation. The doctors chose to administer a supplemental unit of bone marrow in order to obtain enough stem cells. David received first the bone marrow transplant and then the second unit of umbilical cord blood of his brother. The entire process lasted just a minute or two. A the time David was 18-years old. David’s recovery has been slow but steady and today he is healthy and active.
Sickle Cell Anemia
This is a blood disorder in which red blood cells become deformed and sickle-shaped, resulting in the mutation of the genome. The sickled cells, as they are called, find it difficult to circulate in the blood vessels due to their corrupt shapeand are more easily destroyed than normal red blood cells, resulting in anemia.
- A Child diagnosed with sickle cell anemia survived thanks to a transplant unit from his newborn sibling. Joseph Davis Jr.suffered from constant pain, high fever, swollen hands and feet, and was constantly subjected to blood transfusions, in order to control the number of red blood cells. His parents started the process of finding a compatible transplant cord blood or bone marrow unit, but the fact that Joseph had his roots in Africa significantly reduced the odds.
The parents suddenly saw light at the end of the tunnel when the mother became pregnant for a second time and they discovered that the new baby was fully compatible with the older sibling. The umbilical cord blood stem cells of the newborn baby were transplanted into the ailing brother, after he had undergone high-doses of chemotherapy to get rid of the sickled cells in the blood. It was necessary to transplant the healthy stem cells into a healthy environment. The transplantation took place in May 2002. About 20 days later the child began to feel better. His life today is normal and he can look forward to a fulfilling and healthy life.
Thalassemia is an inherited form of severe anemia and is the most common type of anemia found in Greece. In thalassemia, the body cannot synthesize hemoglobin by itself, a key component of blood, which results in difficulties in skeletal growth, paleness and weakness of the patient. Symptoms usually occur after the first year of life, while the usual treatment entails continuous and frequent blood transfusions, so the hemoglobin of the patient can be maintained at a satisfactory level.
The continuous transfusions burden the body with excess iron, which damages many organs, and can even lead to heart failure.
In recent years, the transplantation of hematopoietic stem cells has successfully cured patients with thalassemia, opening up new possibilities for treatment and giving hope to thousands of patients with this devastating genetic disease.
- A typical example is the 7-year old Theodore, the first child in Greece who was cured of thalassemia following a successful transplantation of umbilical cord blood hematopoietic stem cells taken from of his brother. When Theodore was 18-months old, he was diagnosed with this insidious disease and his family was encouraged to conceive a second child via in vitro fertilization. A few years later, in 2008, little Alkistis was borne, whose umbilical cord blood stem cells were given to her brother. Theodore has since undergone numerous medical tests and all indications are that he is cured and is no longer suffering from the dangerous and fatal disease, Thalassemia.
Aplastic Anemia is an anemic syndrome characterized by the absence of all types of blood cells and a decrease or almost total disappearance of cell lines in the bone marrow. The onset of the disease is manifested by easy fatigue and weakness, often accompanied by hemorrhaging and related infections.
- Titus Chang was 18 -months old when diagnosed with aplastic anemia. During the first 3 years of his life, he had to receive weekly blood transfusions in order to reduce the possibility that his already sick immune system would deteriorate further. This was necessary because his bone marrow did not have the ability to produce any red blood cells. His parents could not face the suffering of their child, who was seemingly born healthy and with no family history of this disease.
With the birth of a healthy brother came the hope of salvation for the sick child. His parents decided to bank the umbilical cord blood of the newborn. In 2004, the sick child was treated with chemotherapy, and then successfully transplanted the healthy stem cells of his sibling, a process that lasted only a few hours. The graft was readily available, so there was no loss of valuable time in searching for a compatible unit. The doctors stated that the cord blood transplant was the best, since it would be difficult if not impossible to collect bone marrow or peripheral blood from the newborn baby.