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Need for Blood and Organ Donors Continues to Grow
Date:2/11/2011

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Feb. 11(HealthDay News) -- Every single adult in the United States is carrying around the raw materials to save at least one life, and possibly more than one.

Donation of organs, blood, bone marrow and even the stem cells contained in umbilical cord blood can help heal tens of thousands of people afflicted with terrible diseases, health officials say.

But the need for most of these donations is growing, not shrinking.

As of Feb. 10, 110,324 people were on a national waiting list for an organ donation, up more than 80 percent from the 59,862 people on the list a decade before, according to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.

"The gap is growing because more people are getting added to the waiting list than are donating," said Mary L. Ganikos, chief of the public and professional education branch at the agency's transplantation division.

Taking aim at the problem, health officials on Feb. 14 -- National Donor Day -- intend to urge people to:

  • Fill out an organ and tissue donation card and register with their state registry for donors.
  • Join the nationwide registry of volunteers willing to donate marrow and blood stem cells.
  • Learn how to donate stems cells from umbilical cord blood after the birth of a baby.
  • Donate blood.

Marrow and cord blood donations are growing in importance. The number of people being healed by blood stem cell transplants is increasing every year, but not enough people are registered to donate bone marrow or umbilical cord blood to provide an adequate chance for every person in need to find an appropriate genetic match, Ganikos said.

Stem cells from marrow and cord blood are primarily used to treat deadly diseases, including leukemia, lymphoma, aplastic anemia and autoimmune disorders. There were 5,228 blood stem cell transplants during fiscal year 2010, co
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