Special delivery: Cord blood donation saves lives


New mothers looking to make a big difference for families facing life-threatening medical conditions have a great resource right after labor and delivery – they can donate their baby’s umbilical cord blood for public use at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.

In conjunction with six other California institutions, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford is part of California’s Umbilical Cord Blood Collection Program (UCBCP), the state’s first comprehensive public system for collecting cord blood for lifesaving transplantations and medical research. UC Davis Health System administers the program and is also part of the recipient group.

Cord blood is the blood that remains in the placenta and umbilical cord after a baby is born. It is an important alternative to bone marrow for transplantation because it contains all the natural elements of blood, is rich in blood-forming stem cells, and also does not require as close a match between the donor and recipient as bone marrow. Cord blood is used to treat a variety of diseases, ranging from sickle cell anemia to cancers of the blood, such as leukemia and lymphoma. Researchers say umbilical cord blood also holds promise as an important source of stem cells that could be used for potential medical therapies and treatments.

Typically, only a small number of parents save cord blood when their children are born, making these cells an even more precious resource.
“A lot of patients come to me wanting to donate these blood cells that would otherwise be thrown away,” said Susan Crowe, MD, an obstetrician and director of outpatient breastfeeding medicine services. “We want them to know how easy it is to donate right here.”

Once a mother donates the cord blood to the hospital, it is stored at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and is available for public use – similar to blood donated at a blood bank. Bonus? There is no cost to mom.

“This is an amazing resource that can save lives,” said Rajni Agarwal, MD, clinical director of pediatric cell transplantation. “If we have enough people donating these cells, then every child’s needs could be met.”


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