Boston, Massachusetts (PressExposure) August 11, 2009 -- Public cord blood banking, encouraged by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) allows the umbilical cord blood, which is rich in blood-forming stem cells that can renew themselves and grow into mature blood cells, to be collected, stored and added to the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP). The cord blood is preserved and is available as a source of stem cells for transplantation throughout the United States. This provides a potential treatment option for thousands of people living in the U.S. each year who have a disease that could be treated with a transplant, such as leukemia, lymphoma and other life-threatening blood diseases.
"We are very excited to be able to provide this service to our families and to make tissues available for transplantation for those in need worldwide," said Robert Barbieri, MD, chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at BWH and co-director of the Cord Blood Donation Program. "Before cord blood was collected and donated, parents had the option to privately bank their cord blood or it was simply discarded and unavailable to patients in need. With this program, there is a great opportunity for new parents to help save a life."
Private cord blood banks provide parents the opportunity to store their child's cord blood for an annual fee in the event that their own child or a relative would someday need a stem cell transplant. Experts, including the AAP, recommend private cord blood banking only for parents who have an older child with a condition that could potentially benefit from transplantation, such as a genetic immunodeficiency. This recommendation is supported by a study led by Dana-Farber that was published earlier this year and found that very few physicians support private cord blood banking.
According to the NMDP, about 30 percent of patients in need of a transplant find a donor match within their families, but the other 70 percent need to search a worldwide database of unrelated donors, looking for their match. Many patients will benefit from an expanded donor pool made possible through cord blood donation, but especially those patients who come from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds as they often have a more difficult time finding an adult match.
"The donation of cord blood is risk free, painless, and costs nothing. However, it provides an invaluable national and international resource by providing a source of stem cells for transplantation in a public repository available to anyone who needs them. These cells are used for both children and adults with diseases that can be cured with stem cell transplantation, but who do not have an available adult donor," said Joseph Antin, MD, director of the Stem Cell/Bone Marrow Transplant Program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and co-director of the Cord Blood Donation Program.