Their finding has already proved successful for some leukemia and cancer patients.
"The biggest problem is that children who have high risk sickle cell disease don't have enough tissue type match related donors," says pediactrician, Dr. Andrew Yeager.
From a New York Blood Bank, doctors were able to find an unrelated cord blood donor that was a perfect match for sickle cell patient, Keone. Now the hospital is flooded with requests for treatment.
"It will eliminate Keone's need for transfusion or treatments to reduce the iron overloads in his body as a result of transfusions and get rid of the other complications of sickle cell like painful episodes and so forth," says Dr. Andrews.
Doctors at Emory say for now, adults severely affected by sickle cell won't qualify for this experimental treatment.
Instead, many patients are using a newly approved, once-a-day medication called Hydrea. It's a mild chemotherapy drug that reduces the number of painful episodes brought on by sickle shaped blood cells. Researchers say the medicine also reduces patient time in the hospital and improves longevity.
Their only other option is comprehensive care by a team of specialists, which can be very debihilitating and sometimes deadly. Approximately 72,000 Americans are affected with the disease.
The new cord cell treatment is limited to children who are in a life-threatening stage of the disease. Doctors at Emory University say Keone's procedure has given much hope to other children with serious conditions.