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Sep 19, 2009

Stem cell therapy cures girl of thalassemia


Coimbatore-based Senthil Kumar's eight-year-old daughter Thamirabharuni had been cured of thalassemia - a genetic defect - through cord blood stem cell transplantation. For six-and-a-half years Thamirabharuni suffered from this fatal disease, going through painful blood transfusion and medication until stem cell transplantation using cord blood stem cells gave.

A newborn sibling's umbilical cord blood provides a better chance of HLA matching as there is a 25 per cent chance for a perfect match, and 50 per cent chance for a partial match. Also using a sibling's cord blood for transplant lowers the chances of donor rejection, and is therefore considered as a preferred source for transplantation compared to using stem cells from a non-related source.

Dr. Revathy Raj who examined Thamirabharuni, had recommended her to start on iron reducing medication initially. She had asked Senthil Kumar and his wife to consider another pregnancy and go for umbilical cord blood stem cell banking. With a pre-natal test it was also confirmed that the foetus was not affected with thalassemia. For a year, the extracted cord blood stem cells were preserved under specific conditions. HLA test was done which proved that the tissues of both the children matched and the treatment could proceed. The first step was to destroy all the existing bone marrow cells for which chemotherapy was used. Then the donor's stem cells were injected in the patient body. The procedure requires no surgery, said Dr Raj.

In March 2009, the stem cells transplantation was done by Dr. Revathy Raj at the Apollo Hospital Chennai and it helped Thamirabharuni get rid of thalassemia. The stem cells that were transplanted came from her brother's cord blood and his bone marrow as there was deficient amount of stem cells in Pugazhendhi cord blood.

"We at LifeCell would like to congratulate Senthil Kumar and his family on Thamirabharuni's triumph over thalassemia. This success I am sure will give new hope to thousands of families whose children are unfortunately the victim of this dreadful disease. It feels very fulfilling that LifeCell could make an impact in a child's life… we are very happy to be a part of this success story," said Mayur Abhaya, president and executive director of LifeCell International.

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