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Starting a new bank would be difficult: It would have to collect hundreds of cord blood units at a cost of $2,000 per donation until it matched one to a patient and sold it to a transplant center.
Instead, existing banks are seeking to increase the national inventory by forming partnerships in other states.
Seeking a satellite donor site in Minnesota is a “no-brainer,” said Donna Regan, who directs the St. Louis bank.
“We know they have the infrastructure and the interest and the motivation to collect cord blood.”
Under a proposed deal, the St. Louis bank would bear the financial risks and rewards of collecting the cord blood for transplants, and the U would gain free access to discarded units for research.
Breakthroughs at the U
Among other innovations, U doctors pioneered the “double-cord” transplant by which two cord blood units are mixed for a single transplant. Individual units are sufficient for children, but often too small to treat adults.
They also are studying ways of broadening the “match” between donor and patient. Mismatched stem cells from bone marrow carry the risk of being rejected by patients after transplant — a complication that can be fatal.
But U studies indicate that cord blood stem cells don’t need to be as closely matched, and might even offer cancer-fighting benefits when mismatched.
That, ironically, could reduce the need for more cord blood donation, Wagner added, because it would increase the potential uses for every unit in the national inventory.
But other medical developments could have the effect of reducing supply. More mothers, for example, are asking that the clamping of their umbilical cords be delayed 30 to 60 seconds so more cord blood can transfuse into their newborns. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology hasn’t endorsed the practice, but noted in a policy statement last December that it might offer health benefits. Delayed clamping, however, leaves less blood for donation — often too little for transplants.
Demand for cord blood, meanwhile, could be on the rise — especially if research by Wagner and his colleagues prove that cord blood is effective against a broad new range of diseases.
Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744
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