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New partnership makes it possible for women to increase inventory of valuable stem cells

The St. Louis Cord Blood Bank, based at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center, has expanded its reach to the western side of the state, with the announcement of a new association with Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City.

As of Dec. 1, women who give birth at Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City will have the option of donating blood from their umbilical cords for use in treatments for leukemia, sickle cell anemia, and dozens of other diseases and disorders.

This collection program helps increase the world’s supply of umbilical-cord blood, which is rich in stem cells useful in the treatment of many conditions.

Donated cord blood cells will be tested and processed in Saint Luke’s stem cell processing laboratory, then shipped to St. Louis for storage in the St. Louis Cord Blood Bank.  The St. Louis bank is one of about 24 accredited public facilities across the nation that stores umbilical cord blood for research in stem cell transplantation.

More than 12,000 cord blood transplants have been performed globally, but collecting cord blood from donors of different ethnic backgrounds increases the chances that more patients can benefit from transplantation.

The program relies on the active involvement of delivering physicians and the delivery staffs at participating hospitals, according to Donna Regan, executive director, St. Louis Cord Blood Bank.

“Their voluntary support and cooperation is invaluable in the successful treatment of dozens of conditions. We are delighted to partner with Saint Luke’s in offering this new donation and collection option in the Kansas City area,” Regan said.  “It also should be pointed out that funding for this activity was partially provided by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. We appreciate their partnership.”

Private vs. public donation

Private cord blood banks are available for parents who wish to store their child’s cord blood specifically for the child or another family member. However, donations to public banks (like those at St. Luke’s and Cardinal Glennon) are absolutely free, and they are made available to anyone, anywhere in the world, who needs them.

Why cord blood?

During pregnancy, the placenta and blood within the umbilical cord serve as the lifeline of nourishment from mother to baby. Following the birth, these items are usually discarded. Cord blood stem cells create all of a person’s blood cells including red cells that carry oxygen, white cells that fight disease, and platelets that help blood clot.

Cord blood stem cell transplants to replace cells that are abnormal or eradicated by therapy are successfully treating children and adults with leukemia, metabolic disorders, immune deficiencies, bone marrow failure, or genetic disorders such as sickle cell disease. More than 70 percent of children and adults requiring a bone marrow transplant do not have an immune matched sibling. Cord blood that has been immunologically typed and frozen offers an alternate transplant source for these people.

Because cord blood is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord and the placenta that is normally discarded after the baby is born, there is no harm or risk to either the mother or the baby. As a source of adult stem cells, the use of these cells from cord blood eliminates the ethical concerns surrounding more controversial sources of stem cells.

The collection process

During pregnancy, every woman will be asked whether she wants to donate her umbilical cord blood. After a patient has agreed and the baby is born, the umbilical cord is clamped, cut and separated from the baby. While waiting for the placenta to deliver, blood is collected from the placenta by needle through the umbilical cord and drained into a standard blood donor collection bag. The procedure is painless and non-invasive and does not interfere with the birthing process. And, if there is any concern about the safety of mother or baby, collection does not occur.

Next, the donated cord blood unit is taken to the stem cell processing laboratory based at Saint Luke’s Hospital.  In the lab, the stem cell unit is tested to be sure it is free of infectious diseases or other medical concerns. It is analyzed to confirm that it contains an adequate number of blood-forming stem cells for transplant. Then cord blood is typed, frozen in a liquid nitrogen freezer at Saint Luke’s for a brief period until it is shipped to Cardinal Glennon in St. Louis where is it stored and listed on registries that are searched by transplant facilities worldwide who are looking for a match for one of their patients.

About the St. Louis Cord Blood Bank

Established in 1995, the St. Louis Cord Blood Bank is the second largest independent public cord blood bank in the world. It accepts only donations of umbilical cord blood, then processes, stores, and makes them available to patients in need of stem cell therapy. These cord blood units are listed with the National Marrow Donor Program. The St. Louis Cord Blood Bank operates at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center and is affiliated with the St. Louis University School of Medicine.



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