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19 Nov 2015

Successful Umbilical Cord Stem Cell Transplant For First Chinese Baby, Zhao Jiaxin

In Shanghai, China, a 6 month old Zhao Jiaxin was treated with umbilical cord stem cell therapy for a rare inflammatory disorder. She is the first and youngest patient to receive stem cell transplant for inflammatory bowel disease in the country. This experimental treatment was successful as she recovered from the disorder without any complications.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease is an autoimmune condition affecting all or parts of the digestive tract causing symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, internal muscle spasm, weight loss etc. This is a complex disease triggered by the interaction of genetic and environmental factors that interfere with the normal functioning of the digestive system in affected patients. Baby Zhao experienced severe diarrhea, vomiting, fever and inflammation when she was one week old. After various treatments in several cities, Zhao’s parents took her to Children’s hospital in Fudan University, Shanghai where she was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease caused by IL-10 RA genetic defect.

Usually, bone marrow transplant is recommended as a treatment for this condition but doctors decided to go for donor umbilical cord stem cell transplant due to the following reasons:

  • Compared to bone marrow transplants, umbilical cord blood stem cells are easy to collect through a simple, painless process after the birth of the baby. Thus, it is safe for the donor.
  • The risk of infection is low in umbilical cord blood sample compared to bone marrow sample.
  • When compared to bone marrow stem cells, it is easier to find an umbilical cord blood match for patients.
  • The post operation rejection risk is lesser in umbilical cord blood transplant.

Doctors thought umbilical cord stem cell therapy is the only remedy to treat the defects and control the symptoms of the condition. Luckily, the doctors were able to find a cord blood match for Zhao at the Shanghai cord blood bank. Zhai Xiaowen, director of the hospital’s hematology said that there are no previous studies suggesting the use of umbilical cord blood transplant for inflammatory bowel disease and baby Zhoa is probably the first infant to receive this treatment across the world. However, the treatment was successful and Zhao was able to weather the storm of transplant rejection and other side effects. Her blood tests showed that 98.6% of transfused stem cells worked and the defective effects have changed. Following the transplant, Zhao gradually gained weight and her defecation frequency has become normal. Doctors who treated the infant consider this as a landmark victory at this phase.

Recently, the hospital organized a celebration for Zhao who is now ten and a half months old, for her full recovery and being discharged from the hospital. This shows that umbilical cord stem cells are capable of effectively treating yet another medical condition in infants.

PC: China daily



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