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08 Jul 2015

A New Cell Therapy to Prevent Viral Infection in Cord Blood Transplant Patients

Sometimes, patients who undergo cord blood transplant are susceptible to viral infection after the transplantation. Researchers have identified a new virus specific cell therapy to prevent three of the most problematic viruses that include Cytomegalovirus (CMV), adenovirus and Epstein - Barr virus. The researchers at Baylor College of Medicine, Houstan and Texas Children’s Hospital have evaluated the safety and efficacy of this therapy based on the results of a clinical trial and published the research findings in the Journal, Science Translational Medicine.

Stem Cell Transplantation

Over the past two decades, patients suffered from disorders like Leukemia, Sickle Cell Anemia, Lymphoma and Immuno-deficient disorders were treated with lifesaving stem cell transplants. The blood forming stem cells usually come from 3 different sources: bone marrow, cord blood and peripheral blood stem cells. Although stem cells are life savers, transplantation involves a serious risk of viral infection and up until now, there aren’t any successful alternative treatments available for the prevention of CMV, adenovirus and Epstein-Barr virus.

In the past attempts, scientists were able to make virus specific T cells to prevent the viral infection but this approach worked only if the donor was previously exposed to the virus. In case of cord blood transplants, the cells found in the umbilical cord of the baby are pure and immunologically immature, thus the cord blood has no antibody to give immunity against these viruses. Although there are some antibodies passed from the baby’s mother, most cord blood samples do not have memory T cells to recognize and quickly attack the viruses before they spread throughout the body.

Although, donor cord blood transplants have risk of infection, they are preferred as a last resort if the patient has an inherited disorder or if the family member’s stem cells do not match.



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