Matthew Farrow: The World’s First Cord Blood Transplant Recipient

The lifesaving power of umbilical cord blood stem cells and the regenerative healing of cord tissue is no longer a secret. As stem cell treatments and research advance, more and more parents are opting to bank their newborn baby’s cord blood and tissue. Find out how stem cells are being used in medicine today.

Umbilical cord blood is the blood remaining in the cord after your baby has been born and the cord has been cut and clamped. It contains valuable stem cells that can be used in a variety of medical treatments such as regenerating the immune system after chemotherapy. Stem cells are known as ‘the building blocks of life’. They have the unique ability to become other types of cells in the body such as the blood, nerve cells, muscle, bone, and cartilage.

Why are umbilical stem cells so valuable?

Cord blood stem cells can only be collected at birth, so it is important to make the decision to do cord tissue storage several weeks before your due date.

Cord Tissue stored at birth have many advantages – they are readily available for your family if needed, they are considered to be the ‘youngest and freshest’ type of stem cell, and importantly there is a greater potential of a stem cell match between siblings.

Stem cells from the cord blood have been used for more than 20 years for the treatment of a number of disorders of the blood such as leukemia, lymphoma and thalassemia, which previously had been treated with bone marrow.

The umbilical cord blood collection process
After the safe delivery of your child, your obstetrician or midwife cleans the umbilical cord (with the materials provided in the Cells4Life kit) and inserts the blood bag needle into the umbilical vein. The blood flows into the bag by gravity. The blood bag tubing is clamped, sealed and labeled to await courier collection. The whole process takes only a few minutes and causes no pain for mother or baby.

Matthew Farrow, then a 5 year old boy with Fanconi anemia, received the world’s first cord blood transplant.

The pioneering medical event was an international effort: Matthew came from North Carolina USA, his donor was his newborn baby sister, the American scientist who stored the cord blood was Dr. Hal Broxmeyer, and the transplant was performed at the Hôpital Saint-Louis in Paris, where his French physician was Dr. Elaine Gluckman.

Matt is now 30 years old, a husband and father, who is alive and doing well today thanks to the wonderful work of the medical pioneers who transplanted him with his sister’s umbilical cord blood.

Matthew’s transplant paved the way for cord blood stem cell transplantation and as a result of his successful transplant, the medical world has now seen over 30,000 transplants performed for the treatment of blood disorders.

As well as that, thousands of promising clinical trials investigate the possibility of stem cell treatment for a wide range of disorders such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and neuronal disorders.

Reference:Hematopoietic Reconstitution in a Patient with Fanconi’s Anemia by Means of Umbilical-Cord Blood from an HLA-Identical Sibling at

Darren Keast is the author of this article on cord blood stem cell. Find more information, about Cord blood banking here

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