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Scientists Seek More Cord Blood Supplies


Active Member
Sep 10, 2004
In 2000, a woman donated the blood from her newborn daughter's umbilical cord so scientists could pull precious stem cells from it and freeze them. Two years later, those donated cells saved Kathy Conway's son from leukemia.

"It came to us in this unassuming little syringe, from a mom who had no idea what she was truly doing," said Conway of Poland, Ohio, whose son Daniel is now a healthy 16-year-old.

Blood saved from newborns' umbilical cords could help treat about 11,700 Americans a year with leukemia and other devastating diseases, yet most is routinely discarded, a panel of influential scientists said Thursday.

To build an adequate supply, the nation will need about 100,000 donations from pregnant women in the next few years, on top of the roughly 50,000 cord-blood donations already in stock at different public cord blood banks around the country, the Institute of Medicine concluded.

Those donations shouldn't be hard to get, said Kristine Gebbie of Columbia University, a nursing professor and health policy specialist who led the IOM study. Four million U.S. babies are born every year, and the vast majority of the umbilical cord blood is simply thrown away.

Key will be ensuring racial and ethnic diversity among the donations, to improve the chances that minority patients who need cord blood-derived stem cells can find a genetically suitable match.

"Done right, this can really improve the public good," Gebbie said.

Cord blood is rich in stem cells, the building blocks that produce blood the same stem cells that make up the bone-marrow transplants that help many people survive certain cancers and other diseases. Freeze stem cells from cord blood shortly after a baby's birth, and they're ready to be thawed and transplanted at a moment's notice, a much easier process than traditional bone-marrow donation.