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A study initiated by the World Health Organization and published in the May Journal of the American Medical Association shows that stem cell transplantation has become an accepted therapy worldwide and that the majority of transplant patients received a source of their own (autologous) stem cells.

This global study evaluated the more than 50,000 stem cell transplants performed in a specific calendar year (2006) and found that in 57% of the cases,  the transplants used an autologous, or a patient’s own, source of stem cells for certain cancers and blood disorders. 

This is the first time that the current state of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation has been documented on a global level, say the authors, led by Alois Gratwohl, MD, from the University Hospital Basel in Switzerland. 

This information “has become a necessity for correct patient counseling and healthcare planning,” they add.

Hematopoietic stem cells collected from a newborn’s cord blood have been used successfully for more than 20 years in transplant medicine.  

They are recognized as having distinct advantages compared to other sources of stem cells, because they are younger, more adaptable and have limited exposure to viruses and other environmental factors that can alter cell function.

The authors also note that a matched sibling (within the family) might represent the most efficient way of therapy for a patient with a genetic disorder such as aplastic anemia, thalassemia or severe combined immunodeficiency.

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