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Carolinas Cord Blood Bank at Duke now Accepting Donations from UNC Hospitals

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

DURHAM, N.C. - Now in its third year of operation, the public Carolinas Cord Blood Bank (CCBB) at Duke University Medical Center is now accepting cord blood donations during childbirth from UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill in addition to Duke Hospital and Durham Regional Hospital.

Blood from the umbilical cord is rich with cells that can become any type of blood cell. These hematopoietic stem cells, as they are called, are also found in bone marrow. And like bone marrow transplants, cord blood transplants offer the hope of a cure for patients with numerous diseases, ranging from inherited metabolic disorders to cancer.

"Umbilical cord blood was once discarded as waste, but now we know that it holds a garden that is just waiting to grow," said Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, director of the CCBB and director of the pediatric stem cell transplant program at Duke. "We're pleased to offer a third site for cord blood donation to the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank."

Women wanting to donate their infant's cord blood begin the donation process during their regular OB-GYN visits at practices throughout Chapel Hill and Durham at least six weeks before their due dates. On the big day, blood from the umbilical cord is collected by trained CCBB personnel after the baby is born. It doesn't cost anything to donate, and there's no pain for mother or baby.

"This opportunity allows us to obtain important stem cells without any risk to the mother or baby," explains Dr. Kenneth Moise, professor and division chief of maternal-fetal medicine in UNC's department of obstetrics and gynecology. "UNC is excited to be part of this important endeavor to contribute to the establishment of a stem-cell bank for all patients."

As a public blood bank, the CCBB is funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, one of the National Institutes of Health. Unlike private banks that charge fees for collecting and storing cord blood for use only by the family, the units contained in the CCBB are available for any matching patient.

Donated cord blood from all three hospitals is carefully screened and processed in laboratories at Duke, and if it passes requirements, it is stored in the Duke facility until needed. Both children and adults have received cord blood transplants, which frequently provide an option for patients who can not find a suitably matched bone marrow donor, Kurtzberg says.

"Because cord blood is actually the baby's blood, not the mother's, its components are very immature," Kurtzberg explains. "It doesn't have the well-developed immune cells that are present in adult blood or bone marrow, so it's not as likely to be recognized as foreign by the transplant recipient's system. Neither is cord blood as likely to see the recipient's blood and tissues as foreign and begin attacking them - a condition we call graft-versus-host disease."

The first withdrawal from the CCBB was in March 1999. Currently there are approximately 700 units of cord blood in the bank and another 300 or so in various stages of screening.

Pregnant women interested in donating their cord blood should speak with their obstetricians. More information on the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank is available from their website at https://sites.duke.edu/ccbb/

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