CHICAGO, November 29, 2001 ( – 60 Minutes II carried a special program on the cure of a teenage boy with sickle cell disease – a cure which came from stem cells from umbilical cord blood, not from embryos. The case of Keone Penn has made medical history since he was the first to be cured of the life-threatening disease using umbilical cord blood stem cells.

Dr. Andrew Yeager of the University of Pittsburgh, attempted the experimental treatment on the boy after failing to find a bone marrow match. A public blood bank that had stored umbilical blood stem cells contained a match that was close enough since the umbilical blood cells do not require an exact match. The treatment worked and cured the Keone.

Sixty Minutes reported that Keone “was diagnosed when he was 6 months old. He was 5 when his sickle cell caused a stroke . For six years, Keone and his mother, Leslie Penn, were constantly in and out of an Atlanta hospital to receive transfusions to stave off another potentially deadly stroke. By the time Keone was 11, the transfusions were becoming less effective and he had excruciating pain in his joints and lower back . It stunted his growth . Keone had, at best, only five years to live.”

After receiving the stem cell treatment over Christmas 1998, his blood type was amazingly found to have changed from type O to type B – he had taken on the donors blood type. A year later he was checked by doctors who said the sickle cell had disappeared and he is considered cured.

“After a baby is born, there is just a 15-minute window to retrieve the four to six ounces of blood in the umbilical cord. And in that blood are potentially lifesaving stem cells that can be saved for future use,” reports 60 Minutes. Applications to store cord blood at birth must be pre-arranged.

See LifeSite coverage of another successful treatment with umbilical cord stem cells: