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  • 2009 Fall/Winter Paths of Progress

    Donating Cord Blood for Stem Cell Transplants

    Women giving birth at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), Dana-Farber's partner in adult cancer care, have a new option when they enter the maternity ward: donating the blood from their babies' umbilical cords to a public blood bank. The blood is stored and then matched with patients worldwide who are in need of stem cell transplants.

    The cord blood donation program at BWH has the potential to be a prolific contributor to the North Carolina-based bank, says Deborah Liney, CHTC, who runs the program.

    "There are 8,500 births a year at [BWH]. It makes sense that, as a user of the bank for patients needing stem cell transplants, we can help contribute to it as well."

    The program, which began in May, includes two "collectors" who offer mothers-to-be the opportunity to donate their babies' cord blood, and who collect the cord blood after delivery. Within hours, it is packaged and shipped to the blood bank.

    "The cord-blood collection process has no impact on the delivery process itself," Liney explains. "When a baby is born, the placenta is delivered with the umbilical cord attached. While the medical team inspects the newborn, the collector inserts a needle into the cord to draw out the blood. We need to collect at least 60 milliliters of cord blood for it to be bankable."

    On duty from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., the collectors work closely with delivery-room nurses and physicians to ensure the process goes smoothly. Because of the diverse mix of families who give birth at BWH, donation information is available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Haitian/Creole, and Somali.

    "We welcome all cord-blood donations," Liney remarks, "but we hope to collect a large number of [cord blood] units from racial and ethnic minorities in particular – because that's where the need is greatest."

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