There are probably few medical topics more plagued by online misinformation than stem cell transplants. Part of this confusion is down to people mixing up embryonic stem cells, which have yet to be adapted to clinical use, with hematopoietic stem cells, which have been used in transplants for over four decades. Hematopoietic stem cells are found in bone marrow and circulating blood and are less versatile than their embryonic counterparts, as they are only capable of turning into blood cells. But for patients with blood disorders and cancers such as leukemia or multiple myeloma, a transplant of stem cells from a healthy, compatible donor can be a life-saving procedure.
This weekend, dozens of stem cell transplant patients and their families will come to the University of Chicago Medical Center for a reunion event to celebrate the impact the procedure made on their lives. Many will also reconnect with the physicians and nurses who helped them through their transplant experience, which involves strong chemotherapy and very careful (and sometimes lengthy) screening for compatible donors. Lucy Godley, assistant professor of medicine, is one of the Medical Center’s stem cell transplant experts, serving in both the clinic and the laboratory to help patients and push forward the frontiers of the procedure. We sat down to talk about the basics of stem cell transplants: what diseases it is used for, what the experience is like for donors and patients, and how research is expanding the number of patients eligible for the treatment.
Enjoy the videos, and tune in next week for interviews and footage from the stem cell patients’ reunion.