The National Marrow Donor Program expects that by the year 2015 they will be matching up donors for 10,000 transplants a year, Halet said. Though bone marrow donations will help some of those patients, she said, stem cell donations from cord blood are much more flexible and useful.
This is particularly true for ethnic minorities, both experts said, because their likelihood of finding a direct genetic match for a bone marrow transplant is lower. "It's easier to find a match for cord blood than bone marrow," Verter said. "It does not have to be matched as precisely."
The need for minority donations is increasing even more with the rising number of mixed-race births, producing children with very unique genetics. "We encourage women who are having children that are mixed race or minority background to help further augment the registry," Halet said.
In addition, doctors and scientists continue to uncover new ways to use cord blood stem cells to help heal the sick.
"There's still a lot of promise with cord blood," Halet said. "I don't believe the real range of therapies that cord blood can offer has been elucidated yet."
Only about 200 hospitals in the United States have an active donation program for cord blood, Verter said. However, if a mother wishes to donate, she can tell hospital staff or contact the National Marrow Donor Program to make arrangements.
"There are states that now have laws requiring parents to be informed of their options in cord blood banking," Verter said. "Cord blood saves lives, and it is very easy to donate."
The Paren'ts Guide to Cord Blood Foundation has more on cord blood donations.
For more on how cord blood can save lives, read one woman's story.
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