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Lifeline

Through research, Michael Verneris, M.D., and his University colleagues have proven themselves pioneers in the therapeutic use of the stem cells found in even small amounts of umbilical cord blood. “That’s going to save someone’s life,” he says of the package in his hand.

Researchers and clinicians are turning to umbilical cord blood to treat a growing number of diseases

Previously discarded as medical waste, blood gathered from the placenta and umbilical cord after childbirth holds potential for treating deadly and debilitating diseases. Now, as more centers are beginning to collect and bank this valuable blood, University of Minnesota researchers and clinicians are at the forefront of developing its promise.

In Minnesota, a recent development will increase the amount of cord blood available for research and transplantation alike; last fall, the University announced a new partnership with the St. Louis Cord Blood Bank that will offer women giving birth at the University of Minnesota Medical Center the option of donating their umbilical cord blood. The donated blood either will be used for a stem cell transplant or for research, depending on the number of stem cells in it.

The increased availability of cord blood will make it easier for U experts to advance its therapeutic use not only for cancer but also for the next big frontiers in stem cell research, which could include control or eradication of autoimmune disorders like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, lupus, and type 1 diabetes, as well as the destruction of agents that sicken and kill by directly attacking the human immune system, like HIV/AIDS.

Read more about the therapeutic potential of umbilical cord blood at give.umn.edu/mb/lifeline.

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