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Cord Blood May Help Kids With Diabetes

Study Shows Kids' Own Banked Cord Blood Slows Type 1 Diabetes

Cord Blood Not a Type 1 Diabetes Cure continued...

Unlike cord-blood treatment for life-threatening autoimmune disease and cancer, where harsh and risky chemicals are used to kill off existing immune cells or cancer cells, the diabetes treatment is a simple infusion of cord blood.

That is likely to change as researchers become more confident in the technique -- and start looking for ways to get the immune system to become more tolerant of insulin-producing cells.

"We ultimately will have to add immune suppression," Schatz says. "The solution to reversing diabetes will require a cocktail approach. It will require a way of achieving tolerance, of restoring regenerative cells, and then giving enough cells back to reverse the process. Until we move to that era the progress will be slow."

Why not try that now? Schatz says that type 1 diabetes may eventually have devastating effects, but with insulin treatment, it is not an immediate threat to the life of a child.

"Diabetes is not cancer. It is not OK to have a mortality rate of 3%, which does occur with many of these transplants," he says. "We are very confident that some of these studies may come to fruition. But for now, from our perspective, the dictum of 'first, do no harm' has to be premium."

Parent Sparked Cord-Blood Treatment

Schatz says it wasn't his idea to start treating child diabetes with banked cord blood. The idea came from a parent.

"I received a call from a gentleman in Orlando," Schatz says. The man said he was the father of a child with diabetes, and began asking sophisticated questions about the use of experimental treatments. Thinking he was a fellow scientist, Schatz asked about the man's background.

"He said he was a financier, and offered to buy my time," Schatz recalls. "Of course I offered to meet him without charge. We spoke for two hours. And then he said that because he could afford it, he'd banked his child's blood. He said, 'I want you to use it to treat my 3-year-old.' That is how we got started."

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