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Cord Blood Donation Program Turns Medical Waste into a Lifesaving Resource PDF Print E-mail
Leukemia, the most common form of childhood cancer, affects the blood-forming cells in the bone marrow. It is often treated with stem cell transplants that replace the patient’s bone marrow cells with stem cells donated by a healthy individual. Successful transplant depends on finding a donor who is a close genetic match to the patient. That’s a particular challenge for patients from racial and ethnic minority groups, who may die while waiting for a matching donor.

But a mostly-untapped source of genetically diverse stem cells is right under our noses: Blood left in the umbilical cord after a baby is born. Though it has typically been discarded as medical waste, this blood has real value, as a Packard Children’s press release explains:

With the right system in place, cord blood can be collected at no risk to a new mother and baby, and given to unrelated patients who need the stem cells. This public system is distinct from private cord blood banks, which charge families fees to collect cord blood and store it for their own possible use.
“The chance of needing banked cord blood for your own child is very remote,” said Maurice Druzin, MD, division chief of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Packard Children’s. Because blood cancers are so rare, very few families who privately bank cord blood use the cells, Druzin explained. “But these cells are potentially lifesaving for someone else.”

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