Last week, Lucy Hinchion, aged 20 months, became the youngest child in the world to receive her own cord blood to help prevent or delay the onset of Type 1 diabetes, reports the Australian Associated Press (APP).
What is umbilical cord blood?
Umbilical cord blood is blood that remains in the placenta and in the attached umbilical cord after childbirth. Cord blood is collected because it contains immune cells and stem cells, which hold the promise of treating some illnesses. Parents can choose to store their baby’s cord blood at birth in either a private or public bank.
Sonya Hinchion, mother of Lucy, told AAP her daughter Lucy’s blood was stored at birth in the hope it would eventually help her seven-year-old sister, Ava, who developed Type 1 diabetes just before she turned four. “But after testing positive for two antibodies herself, Lucy became at high risk of developing the condition,” reports APP.
Autoantibodies are proteins made by the body’s immune system. If these proteins are present, it can mean that beta cells in the pancreas, which produce insulin, are damaged and that an autoimmune attack may be occurring. Certain autoantibodies can be found in the blood months or even years before Type 1 diabetes occurs.
Ms Hinchion described the reinfusion of all of Lucy’s cord blood as easy and straightforward. She told APP, “You’re putting all your eggs in one basket but without doing this trial and without putting yourself out there, we’re never going to learn.”
“The other risk is, she develops diabetes and you’ll kick yourself for not trying.”
“More than 100 Australian children with a family history of Type 1 diabetes are currently being screened in the Cord Reinfusion in Diabetes (CORD) study, conducted through the hospital’s Kids Research Institute and funded by cord blood bank Cell Care Australia,” according to APP.
Professor Maria Craig, who heads the CORD study, will follow Lucy every three to six months for the next three years to monitor her response to the reinfusion.
If you have a close family member with Type 1 diabetes you may be eligible for screening and clinical trials through TrialNet.