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When You Need a Stem Cell Transplant

There are many illnesses that today can be partially or completely cured with a stem cell transplant.

Stem Cell Treatments

In cases where a patient has cancer and has been treated with high dose chemotherapy and radiation, the cells in the patient’s bone marrow that produce new blood cells are severely damaged. This can be treated by transplanting stem cells into the patient. These stem cells can become red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets.  These new cells will allow the patient to survive long enough for their own blood-forming cells to recover from the injury.

Where do Stem Cells Come From ?

The three main sources for stem cells are bone marrow, peripheral blood, and cord blood. In the event that cord blood is deemed the most appropriate source of stem cells to affect a cure, then the transplant team searches databases all over the world to find the best match.  It almost always takes more than one unit of cord blood to get enough stem cells for a transplant.  When a match is found, then that sample can be transported to wherever the patient is. This depends, of course, on the regulations for treatment with cord blood being compatible with those of the recipient jurisdiction.

At this point it is not known how long cord blood can be stored and still provide healthy stem cells for transplantation.  We do know that they last at least ten years, as stem cells that old have been successfully transplanted. This is a good thing, since it greatly widens the pool of possible donors.  It also increases the chances of finding a match.

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Stem Cell Treatment Process

After a transplant is performed, the recipient is not magically cured of the disease the very next day.   They are still susceptible to infections and must be closely monitored for at least two months after the transplant.  It takes that long for engraftment of the stem cells to occur, and for the donor stem cells to start doing the job they were intended to do.