After your baby is born, the umbilical cord is clamped and cut but some blood remains in the cord. It turns out that this umbilical cord blood is actually liquid gold. The stem cells in cord blood are very flexible biologically and can be transplanted in people to treat a number of life-threatening diseases. In fact, cord blood can be used as a treatment for more than 60 diseases- including various kinds of cancers, inherited metabolism disorders and immune system diseases.
Families have three options when it comes to cord blood. They can decide to discard the blood, donate it to a public cord bank, or keep it in a family cord blood bank (the family bank costs about $1K plus some annual storage charges). Cord blood that’s collected can be stored at either a public cord blood bank or family cord blood bank. The cells are stored in liquid Nitrogen- and remain good for at least 25 years.
Nationally and in Arizona there’s a shortage of cord blood being collected from Native American and Hispanic folks, meaning that they aren’t as able to find a good match in public banks and can’t benefit from treatment to the same extent as other folks. If a patient is Native American and does not have a family member match, the chance of finding matching cord blood is only 1% and Hispanics the chance of a match is 7%. The percentage is much higher for other populations. That’s where a successful new program comes in that is being funded by our Arizona Biomedical Research Commission.
Two years ago the Commission conducted a national survey looking for a partner to create an Arizona public cord blood collection and banking. They picked ClinImmune Labs at the University of Colorado Denver as its collaborator. The program kicked off last month with its first donation into the bank. Over the coming years, ClinImmune will process and store the cord blood collected from 3 hospitals that deliver a large percentage of Native American and Hispanic babies- Maricopa Medical Center, St. Josephs, and Phoenix Baptist.
The Commission has committed $560K per year for the next three years to support this project as seed money. Half of the proceeds of cord blood from Arizona that are shipped to transplant centers will come back to the program to support the project in future years. The federal government is also pitching in about $2M per year for the first 3 years.
By the way- check out our revamped Arizona Biomedical Research Commission webpages. Thanks go out to Jeff Burgess, Jesse Lewis, Gannon Wegner, Jennifer Tweedy and Shoana Anderson for overhauling the site and making it user friendly.