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For the first time in Israel, the life of a woman suffering from secondary acute leukemia was saved by umbilical cord blood donated by two mothers after they gave birth. The procedure took place recently at Sheba Hospital in Tel Hashomer.
The patient received stem cells from cord blood from two donors, as one cord does not contain enough. Stem cells from cord blood do not have to be the exact tissue type of the recipient, unlike bone marrow from adults.
Sheba Hospital said the graft "took" in two weeks rather than the month it usually takes for bone marrow. The hospital's cord blood bank recently became the first in Israel to be accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks, which is the biggest regulatory body for accreditation of blood banks, including that of the American Red Cross.
Only one in four patients who need a bone marrow transplant for a blood cancer finds a suitable donor in their family. Searches in Israeli and international bone marrow registries are carried out, often without success, to find a match. There are no banks of bone marrow, and each time a perfect match is found, the person whose tissue type was tested and found suitable has to be located and asked to donate.
But cord blood donation offers great potential in speeding this process up, said Prof. Arnon Nagler, the head of the hemo-oncology and bone marrow transplant unit at Sheba Hospital.
The recipient, a 27-year-old woman, contracted lymphoma in the past and recovered. But recently she got acute secondary leukemia that endangered her life. Since she needed 300 million cells per kilogram, the amount in a single umbilical cord after delivery of a baby was not enough, and she needed two. She received cells from two different women, and is now in good condition.
Nagler said these transplants have been performed in a few centers around the world only in the last two years.
"With the development of umbilical cord blood banks, we decided to try it," he said. "This is a revolution on technical grounds, because the stem cells in umbilical cords are available, and medically, because it makes it easier to find suitable donors - and the two doses made it effective much faster.
"It also saves the efforts required to find a perfect adult donor. Until now, we transplanted stem cells from umbilical cord blood only into children, and one dose at a time."
Nagler said the success emphasized the need for developing public umbilical cord blood banks. Almost every new mother can donate her umbilical cord blood to Sheba Hospital's public bank, he added.