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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Umbilical Stem Cells To The Rescue?

(Image Credit: Gamida, via Israel 21st Century)

Stem cells are often hailed as the "holy grail" that would enable scientists to help patients restore (or heal) sick organs critical for survival.

Now it seems as if two Israeli companies (Teva and Gamida Cell) have partnered in order to help patients discover the benefits of stem cells by pulling them from an unlikely source--umbilical cords.

(Israel 21st Century) For many patients suffering from blood-based cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, the odds of survival have historically been poor. Bone marrow transplant treatment improves prospects for some - but suitable donors can generally be found for only 50 percent of patients. For the other half, no match can spell no hope.

The StemEx technique, which involves a graft of expanded stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood, has been in clinical development by the Jerusalem-based Gamida Cell for the last five years. Gamida develops stem cell-based therapies to treat blood cancers and cardiac diseases. [...]

Such cord blood technology has been around for nearly 20 years. But in the past, such treatment proved viable only in cases of pediatric leukemia, given the small quantity of cells obtainable from umbilical cord blood. The StemEx technology is able to increase this volume of cells in the laboratory, enabling adolescent and adult patients to undergo stem cell treatment for the first time.

Using umbilical stem cells may prove to be more useful than its current rivals (such as adult stem cells), as well as easier to receive grants from via governments and medical institutions.

Hopefully this medical technology can be expanded to include patients suffering from other diseases ranging from Parkinson's to heart disease.

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