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Cord blood hope for preemies

Cord blood stem cells may hold the key to preventing Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) – a major cause of irreversible blindness in preterm newborns.

ROP results from abrupt alterations in oxygen levels impacting the retina’s development. Standard treatment involves transfusions of packed red blood cells from adult donors. However, this can lead to a rapid decrease in fetal hemoglobin (HbF) levels, which is associated with an increased risk of developing ROP due to excessive oxygen release in the retina.

The new study underway in Spain is aiming to address this issue by reinfusing the baby’s own cord blood which is naturally rich in HbF. This innovative approach intends to preserve physiological HbF concentrations, potentially minimizing the risk of excessive oxygen-related damage and optimizing postnatal development.

The randomized, double-blinded, multi-center clinical trial will recruit extremely low gestational age neonates (ELGANs), randomizing them to receive either their own umbilical cord blood or standard adult-donor blood transfusion. The primary endpoint is the incidence of ROP, with secondary endpoints focusing on the safety of the treatment, assessment of biomarkers related to ROP, and evaluation of oxidative stress markers.

This pioneering approach not only aims to maintain the natural balance of HbF but also capitalizes on the inherent growth factors and progenitor cells present in umbilical cord blood. These components may positively influence the progression of ROP. As this trial progresses, it holds the potential to redefine neonatal care strategies, offering a promising avenue for preventing ROP and enhancing the overall health outcomes of premature infants.


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