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Monday, 25 October 2004

Cord Blood - Backgrounder

October 2004

While in the womb the baby's blood travels through the placenta to pick up nutrition from the mother. After birth this extra blood is no longer needed by the baby and is 'thrown out' with the placenta.

This 'cord blood' (as it has become known) happens to be rich in bone marrow cells. This quirk of nature is of no benefit to the baby but is a window of opportunity to the cord blood bank - it allows us to recycle a cellular resource - one of the truly great recycling programs ever.

This cord blood can be collected from the placenta through the umbilical veins after the baby is born - at no risk to the mother or baby. Cord blood keeps the baby alive while in the womb and after birth the cord blood can be re-cycled and used to save the life of another person (with leukemia).

Once Cord Blood is collected (only 100 ml) it has 'anti freeze' added to protect the cells from damage when frozen and can then stored at -180 Deg C in liquid nitrogen for
20 years or more or until needed for a life saving transplant.

It is tested for infection and the family give a medical history to ensure that no diseases could be transmitted in the cord blood. Tissue typing is performed and the results placed on an international database, allowing transplant centres worldwide to search for a suitable donation.

There are over 13,000 cord blood units stored in Australia (by Auscord) and the Australian network is the 5th largest cord blood repository in the world. It is funded by the Federal and State Governments, with strong support from Rotary and Inner Wheel Australia.

In children, the use of cord blood for transplant results in a similar outcome to an unrelated bone marrow transplant. However, bone marrow donors have to be fully matched, whereas cord blood donations do not need to be fully matched, making them more versatile than unrelated bone marrow.

However, because of slower engraftment with cord blood, the concept of using 2 donations instead of one arose. There has been concern that use of 2 units would double the potential for risks even if the speed of engraftment were increased. Far from it, engraftment is faster, no increase in complications has occurred - indeed there appear to be fewer complications.

For Further Information Contact:

Jan Forrester, Public Affairs Manager Tel: 9382 3571 - Mob: 0411 730 842

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