UNDATED (WJRT) -
(06/03/14) - Since the 1970's, researchers have known a newborn's umbilical cord blood contained special stem cells that could help certain diseases.
Decades later, we're learning more about just what that blood can do.
More than 30 years later, doctors are still experimenting and learning more about cord blood. As they work to perfect the use of it, they're finding it's blood that can cure.
Amanda Canale doesn't take time with her daughter and niece for granted. She's just happy to feel good.
"I've been in the hospital, and I've been sick my whole life," she said.
Amanda was born with a rare blood disorder that required daily shots.
"Basically, I have no white blood cells. I have no immune system at all," she said.
At 23, she developed leukemia and was given two weeks to live. She desperately needed a bone marrow transplant, but family members weren't matches. Her doctor suggested an umbilical cord blood transplant.
Cord blood contains stem cells that regenerate. Mothers of newborns can save their child's own blood or donate it. More than 30,000 transplants have been performed worldwide, but because the blood comes from a tiny newborn - there's not much of it.
"The cord blood is rare, precious and few, and yet is more potent in its ability to grow," said Dr. Edward Agura, Baylor University Medical Center.
Now doctors at Baylor are treating patients by combining cord blood from multiple donors. They've found this increases the number of stem cells and provides faster recovery.
Amanda's transfusion was from a baby whose mother donated six years earlier. The procedure completely cured her cancer and blood disorder.
"Sometimes I have to sit back and think it's not real because I'm used to taking shots every day. I'm used to being sick," she said.
Now, she can enjoy time with a little girl who's glad to have a healthy mom.
"I think she's awesome and that she's really strong," said Amanda's daughter, Deanna Canale.
On average, it costs about $1,200 up front and $100 per year to privately store cord blood. Mothers can donate to a public bank for free. For more information, click HERE.