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Mothers can now donate, bank umbilical cord blood

By From page A4 | March 19, 2014

Mothers giving birth at UC Davis Medical Center will now have the chance to store away their newborn’s umbilical cord blood as part of a state program to collect and store the cells for their disease-fighting properties.

Created by state legislation in 2010, California’s Umbilical Cord Blood Collection Program is a state-funded system designed to broaden the diversity of umbilical cord blood for public banking and use in unrelated transplants as well as provide a source of high-quality cord blood units for qualified researchers, according to a press release from UCD.

UCD Health System administers the program, which is funded by a $2 fee on birth certificate copies.

The service has been available for several years through private companies that charge several thousands of dollars per year and often have less stringent collection standards, according to Suzanne Pontow, Ph.D., co-director of the umbilical cord blood collecting program for the state of California.
Now several hospitals around the state will offer it and the cells will be cryopreserved at a location in San Diego.

Cord blood cells can be used to treat more than 80 diseases like leukemia, lymphoma and anemia.

They also have less potential for rejection than bone marrow cells during a transplant to a recipient, Pontow said.

“This program enables new mothers to be both life-givers and lifesavers,” said Laurel Finta, medical director for Maternity Services at UCD Medical Center. “Parents now have the opportunity to donate to a publicly funded cord blood collection program that costs them nothing and can provide benefits to so many others.”

The donation of cord blood cells is voluntary for mothers, who would be allowed to participate if they do not have blood-related diseases like HIV or have not recently traveled abroad — similar to qualifications that apply when donating blood, Pontow said.

While a newborn’s cord blood is saved by his or her name in the system, if that child goes on to develop a disease like leukemia, his or her cells most likely could not be used for self-treatment as they would also have the characteristics for developing leukemia, said Pontow, who also studies neonatal stem cells in umbilical cord blood and the placenta UCD Institute for Regenerative Cures in Sacramento.

Such cells could have a 1-in-4 chance of helping a sibling, however, she added, and could help any matching patient in need of a blood transplant.

Having a larger bank of cord blood cells is very important for fighting diseases in people of mixed races, who have less common cell-surface structures that are involved in rejection or acceptance by immune cells.

“The main goal of this program is to expand the diversity of publicly available cord blood by making it easy and convenient for new mothers to donate,” said Pontow. “Only a tiny fraction of cord blood is collected and preserved right now, so this is the beginning of an important effort to enable parents around the state to voluntarily and easily donate cord blood at no cost.”

– Reach Jason McAlister at [email protected]

Jason McAlister

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