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As One Life Starts, Another May Be Saved
Date:10/7/2011

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Oct. 7 (HealthDay News) -- A mother cuddling her newborn baby may not know it, but the process that created a new life also has given her the chance to save another.

Blood contained in the umbilical cord and placenta is a rich source of stem cells that can be used to treat leukemia, lymphoma and many other life-threatening diseases, according to the National Marrow Donor Program.

However, many expectant mothers don't know that they can donate cord blood after childbirth. Others don't donate because they are concerned the process might be expensive or risk the health of their newborn.

"Less than 5 percent of parents are storing their children's cord blood," said Frances Verter, founder and director of the Parent's Guide to Cord Blood Foundation. "That's just a tragedy because it's medically important and there is no danger to mother or child from donation."

Cord blood is considered valuable because it can be matched to many more patients than bone marrow can be, said Mary Halet, director of recruitment and community development for the National Marrow Donor Program.

"The cells in the placenta and umbilical cord are very naive," Halet said. "They haven't been exposed to viruses or environmental pathogens so it hasn't formed any reactive abilities. It has the ability to live and grow in a not-perfectly-matched host."

Donation occurs after a baby has been delivered and the umbilical cord is clamped, Verter explained. A doctor or nurse will sterilize the cord, insert a needle and draw blood from it.

"You can get a few ounces of blood out of the cord," Verter said, which may not sound like much until you realize that those few ounces contain millions of stem cells. "Nothing else competes with cord blood in terms of getting millions of cells within a two-minute blood draw," she said.

Recent research has suggested that obstetricians might want
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