First-of-its-kind Northern California Public Blood Collection Program Opens at Packard Children's
Apr 25, 2012 - 10:34:42 AM
(HealthNewsDigest.com) - A new public cord blood collection program at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford, the first of its kind in Northern California, is now enabling new parents to donate their baby's cord blood to an international stem cell transplant registry. Stem cell transplants cure leukemia, lymphoma and inherited blood diseases by replacing a patient's blood-forming cells with those from a healthy donor.
"This is a public service project to expand the donor pool," said Rajni Agarwal, MD, the clinical director for pediatric stem cell transplantation at Packard Children's and medical director of the new collection program. "It will help physicians do more stem cell transplants and save more lives." The new program makes Packard Children's the first Northern California hospital to both collect cord blood donations and use them in stem cell transplants.
Right now, nearly all cord blood is discarded as medical waste, while patients who need transplants sometimes die for lack of a donor. But 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.
Agarwal is excited that Packard Children's is coming full circle by collecting cord blood donations as well as using them. "Using cord blood for stem cell transplant is the biggest advance in this field in the past 20 years."
Providing a life-saving alternative to bone marrow registries, who have relatively few donors from ethnic minority groups, Packard Children's obstetric patients reflect the great diversity of the Bay Area's population. The hospital's donations could greatly diversify the cells available for transplant, helping more minorities find a match.
Agarwal is seeing first-hand the benefits of using cord blood for Packard Children's hematology-oncology patients who need stem cell transplants.
"In the past year, we've done 10 cord blood transplants," she said. "And this is just the beginning." She has transplanted children with leukemia; thalassemia, an inherited form of anemia; Hurler syndrome, an inherited enzyme deficiency; and the autoimmune disease histiocytosis.
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