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Study uses cord blood stem cells in hearing loss treatment

When children fall and scrape their knee, their body begins an amazing repair process. Blood coagulates to form a protective cover and skin cells begin to regenerate. Add a kiss and a bandage and the knee is usually completely healed within a week or two. But what happens if that child is born with a more severe problem – such as a heart defect or hearing loss? As amazing as the human body can be, sometimes its natural healing process needs a little help to get started.

That's the impetus behind a study using umbilical cord blood to treat hearing loss in children. Florida Hospital for Children and Cord Blood Registry (CBR) are launching a FDA-regulated, Phase 1 safety study of the use of cord blood stem cells to treat children with sensorineural hearing loss.

cord blood graphResearchers are currently in the enrollment phase of the study. Ten children between the ages of 6 weeks and 6 years old will be treated using their own stored umbilical cord blood. Patients will receive one intravenous infusion of their own umbilical cord blood stem cells and return for follow-up at one month, six months and one year post-treatment.

Children with genetic deafness are ineligible for study participation. More information on study enrollment and criteria can be found at http://www.cordblood.com/stem-cell-research/cord-blood-research/hearing-loss

According to the Center for Hearing and Communication, approximately 3 million children in the United States have a hearing loss; 1.3 million of them are under the age of three. Children with sensorineural hearing loss experience problems or deformities with the cochlea (sensory) or the hearing nerve (neural) due to illness, birth defects, medication, noise or head trauma.

Although hearing aids and cochlear implants are effective means of treating sensorineural hearing loss in both children and adults, these instruments do not repair damaged hearing. If successful, cord blood stem cell treatment could repair the damage, leading to improved speech and language skills, social interaction, and cognitive learning abilities for children with acquired sensorineural hearing loss.
Cord Blood Registry is a cord banking company headquartered in San Bruno, California. Currently, the company participates in FDA-regulated clinical trials for autism, cerebral palsy, pediatric stroke and traumatic brain injury. This study marks the first for hearing loss treatment.

Researchers learned the benefits of using cord blood in 1988 when the first sibling-donor cord blood transplant was performed for a five-year-old child with Fanconi anemia. In 2002, they began exploring stem cells' ability to help the body heal itself. By 2005, clinical trials were in place to investigate newborn stem cell therapies for damaged tissue. Today, more than one million people have benefited from stem cell treatment for more than 80 different diseases.

Cord blood stem cells have documented success in treating leukemia, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Hodgkins disease and Non-Hodgkins lymphoma to name a few. Researchers are hopeful cord blood will eventually be effective in the treatment of AIDS, heart disease, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injury and stroke.

What makes stem cells so desirable? Stem cells are considered the body's "master cells" because they have the ability to create the different types of cells that make up human organs, blood, tissue and immune system. Stem cells, typically found in bone marrow and fat tissue, have the ability to divide and develop into any of the three main types of cells found in the blood: red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.

Although cord blood stem cells have the same capacity as stem cells found in other parts of the body, there is less of a risk for transmitting infectious disease or being rejected by the host. They are also much easier and safer to collect.

Cord blood stem cells are different from the controversial embryonic stem cells, which require the destruction of a human embryo to obtain. Cord blood is collected with no risk to the mother or child and can be frozen and stored for many years. More than 200 hospitals actively collect cord blood from babies (with mother's consent).

Parents must make the decision to collect and store their baby's newborn stem cells immediately after birth. After the umbilical cord has been clamped and cut, the remaining blood in the umbilical cord is drawn into a collection bag. Costs include $2,000 for the procedure and approximately $125/year to store the baby's core blood. Parents may also choose to donate their cord blood to public storage banks. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages public cord-blood donations; however, opposes private banking in most cases.

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