What is cystic fibrosis and could cord blood help those with this life-limiting illness?
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic condition which affects the lungs and digestive system. Both parents must be carriers of the faulty gene which causes cystic fibrosis in order for a child to be born with the condition. When both parents carry the faulty gene their children have a 25% of being born with cystic fibrosis, a 25% chance of being unaffected, and a 50% chance of being a carrier of the faulty gene.
Cystic fibrosis causes the lungs and digestive system to become clogged up with thick sticky mucus. Unfortunately there is no cure for cystic fibrosis. However, symptomatic therapies such as physiotherapy to help clear mucus from the airways and drugs to help expand the airways are beneficial. Despite these treatments, some people may ultimately need a lung transplant. 
While there is currently no cure for cystic fibrosis, researchers are hopeful that one day a cure could be found. Research is taking place in many areas of medicine, including stem cell research using cord blood. Professor Bob Williamson’s team at the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Medicine hope to prove that umbilical cord blood can be used to regenerate lung cells for children with cystic fibrosis.
Professor Williamson said, “Cord blood is a very exciting resource, full of different kinds of stem cells. These have already been shown to form liver, brain and skin cells, and they represent a real hope for people with cystic fibrosis now that we can add lung cells to the list. We already know that umbilical cord blood is known to be safe and effective when used to treat childhood cancers and leukaemia, and we hope that cord blood will provide cells with a potential to rebuild damaged lungs in people with cystic fibrosis.”