TechKnow: Banking cord blood to save lives

This Saturday, July 19th at 7:30 pm ET/4:30 pm PT (Repeats 10:30P ET/7:30P PT), Al Jazeera America’s “TechKnow” shows us one of the most exiting areas of medical research – how umbilical cord blood is being used to treat brain disease and injury.

“Techknow” host and mechanical engineer Dr. Shini Somara takes us inside Duke Children’s Hospital, where a team of doctors is treating young Grace Matthews, an infant with hydrocephalus, or water on the brain, characterized by the tell-tale swelling of the baby’s head. We go behind-the-scenes on the high-tech experimental treatments, as doctors infuse Grace with stem cells from her own umbilical cord, and we meet another young patient who experienced “miraculous” progress from the use of umbilical cord stem cells.

The medical equivalent of gold, we’re just at the tip of understanding how stem cells from cord blood, harvested at the time of birth, can be used to help the brain regenerate and heal from injuries and damage.

“I personally believe cell therapy, and regenerative medicine, is going to be the next big advance in medicine, and that cells like cord blood are going to drive that forward,” reports Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, Chief of the Division of Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina.

Next, molecular neuroscientist Dr. Crystal Dilworth introduces us to a budding young scientist exploring treatment for one of the deadly diseases of the developing world – malaria. 16-year old Shreya Remayya, a student at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, presented a prize-winning idea at the Intel ISEF Fair for working with different anti-malarial drugs to create new compounds for effective treatment of the disease.

“We’re in this arms race against the malaria parasite,” Remayya tells TechKnow. “As we evolve our medical treatments to try to combat the disease, the parasite itself is constantly changing and mutating.”

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Al Jazeera America’s “TechKnow” is a half hour documentary show that airs weekly on Saturdays at 7:30 pm ET/4:30 pm PT. A show about innovations that can change lives, “TechKnow” explores the intersection of hardware and humanity in a unique way – it’s a show about science, by scientists. “TechKnow” rotating cast of hosts includes mechanical engineer Dr. Shini Somara, molecular neuroscientist Dr. Crystal Dilworth, entolomologist Phil Torres, biologist Marita Davison, engineer Kosta Grammatis, science writer Kyle Hill, former CIA operative and analyst Lindsay Moran, neuroscientist Rachelle Oldmixon and neurobiologist Cara Santa Maria.