Leukemia, the most common form of childhood cancer, affects the blood-forming cells in the bone marrow. It is often treated with stem cell transplants that replace the patient’s bone marrow cells with stem cells donated by a healthy individual. Successful transplant depends on finding a donor who is a close genetic match to the patient. That’s a particular challenge for patients from racial and ethnic minority groups, who may die while waiting for a matching donor.
But a mostly-untapped source of genetically diverse stem cells is right under our noses: Blood left in the umbilical cord after a baby is
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Expectant parents must make several important medical decisions. Among them: whether to have prenatal genetic testing, request pain medication during labor, strive for a natural birth or circumcise a male baby?
Perhaps one of the most overlooked parts of childbirth preparation is whether to save or donate the infant’s umbilical cord blood.
Umbilical cords are usually discarded as medical waste. But the potential uses for cord blood are growing, making it imperative that families understand their options, including whether to pay to have the blood stored for possible use in the event of their child’s illness
The Ospedali Riuniti of Bergamo is the top center for the collection of umbilical cord blood in the Lombardy region, said the hospital, which received an award at the Policlinico di Milano (where the umbilical cord blood bank is located) for the second consecutive year for its commitment and professionalism with which it carries out its work, providing an important source of stem cells.
“Our collection program started in 2004,” explained Bruna Pasini, the head obstetrician, also in charge of the collection of umbilical cord blood for the hospital. “At that time we started to collaborate with the Milano
(…) Since 2006, according to NECBB records, the number of banked units used in transplants has doubled. The company attributes this increase in cord blood usage to the ever evolving research surrounding cord blood stem cells.
“We have always reminded parents that stem cell therapies are advancing very quickly and it is difficult to know what the possibilities are. The fact that more parents are using cells they stored suggests that the scope of treatments available is encouraging,” said Dr. David Matzilevich, Chief Scientific Officer of NECBB. “We are confident that the cells found in cord blood are extremely valuable
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A 300-euro bill has arrived for some couples that had stem cells taken from their child at birth three years ago. Sant’Anna has sent a bill to parents who decided to transport umbilical cord blood to Switzerland, which in Italy cannot be stored for personal use.
For the past year, the procedure is no longer free at Sant’Anna, but now the hospital is sending bills out to couples who had the procedure done in 2008 when the hospital was not yet making people pay and the operation was entirely free. Numerous couples in the past weeks have