In this episode of TechKnow we meet baby Grace Matthews who was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, or water on the brain, a condition characterised by a fluid build-up causing swelling of the head. This swelling has damaged her brain.
Baby Grace is part of a cutting-edge FDA study to use her umbilical cord blood – banked straight after her birth – which she will be infused with to help heal her brain injury.
TechKnow presenter, Shini Somara, heads to Duke Children’s Hospital & Health Center where scientists are using umbilical cord blood to treat and cure diseases.
Dr Joanne Kurtzberg is the architect of the cord blood programme at Duke University.
“We are working with stem cells from cord blood, which is the baby’s blood left over in the after birth, after a baby is born, which used to be discarded as medical waste, but about 20 years ago it was discovered that there are blood stem cells in cord blood. And now we know that there are stem cells of many different tissues and organs in the cord blood,” explains Dr Kurtzberg.
“It can be frozen at the time a baby’s born and used for therapy later in life.”
The study is part of a movement towards “regenerative medicine,” which already has been undergoing decades of research.
We head behind the scenes to see how this high-tech experiment is prepared and carried out as Grace receives an infusion from her own umbilical cord. We meet another young patient who has benefited from this same treatment.
In this episode, we also meet a 16-year-old high school student who is determined to find a cure for malaria.