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In 1988, Matthew Farrow, of North Carolina, became the first person to ever receive a transplant using umbilical cord blood.

At the time, Matthew was 5 years old and living with Fanconi anemia, a rare, inherited blood disorder that leads to bone marrow failure[1].

Pregnant with Matthew’s little sister, Matthew’s mother had her amniotic fluid analyzed to see whether the newborn would be a candidate for a potential bone marrow transplant. Not only was the baby unaffected by the disease, it turned out that she was HLA-identical; a perfect match.

Umbilical Cord Blood over Bone Marrow Transplant

Given the unknown outcome of cord blood transplants at the time, Matthew’s transplant had to take place outside the United States.

Mathew’s physicians at the time, including Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, current President of the CBA, arranged for the umbilical cord blood to be frozen and stored by American Scientist, Dr. Hal Broxmeyer. The sample was then flown from a lab in Indianapolis to the Hôpital Saint-Louis in Paris where the operation was completed by French physician Dr. Eliane Gluckman.

The collaboration was hailed as an international effort that resulted in the world’s first-ever successful transplant using stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood.

The transplantation was an industry first and a medical success that, according to Cells4Life Group UK, has led to over 30,000 transplants for the treatment of blood disorders around the world.

Today, Matthew is 32 years old, married, a father, and an advocate and spokesperson for Cord:Use.

[1] National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

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