Stem Cell Transplant Program Offered at UVA Medical Center

What used to be medical trash is now treating cancer. The University of Virginia’s Medical Center is the first place in Virginia to take advantage of stem cells from umbilical cords and they are pleased with the results.

Dr. Mary Laughlin, the director of stem cell transplantation at UVA,said, “These are cells that are routinely thrown away, these cells save lives.”

A lab within the UVA Medical Center contains numerous tubes where non-embryonic stem cells reside. They come from umbilical cord blood and give hope topatients suffering leukemia, multiple myeloma and lymphoma.

Dr. Laughlin added, “They can completely replace a patient’s bone marrow in the immune system. Oneof 10 cancer patients are able to find those cells through existing adult registries.”

Thefive million babies that are born each year will soon solve that problem. The cells that are normally tossed out attack cancer cells.

Denise Mariconda, a nurse within the stem cell transplant program, stated, “It looks like a blood transfusion.” Dr. Laughlin added, “It is in many ways like a cancer vaccine.”

The first transplants were made in January and the transplant program at the UVA Medical Center admits it takes getting used to.

Mariconda said, “It is a process that’s not like having your heart fixed in a one-day setting and you know that it’s better.”

These cells are not cause for controversy. Dr. Laughlin said, “Use of cord-blood is approved by all religious groups including the Vatican.”

Babies’ immune systems are not fully educated at the time of birth, making these cells effective. Dr. Laughlin, added, “That allows us to cross transplant barriers.”

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Stem Cell Transplant Program Offered at UVA Medical Center