Friday, May 22, 2009

Local hospital

Pilot program could expand stem cell treatments

Women & Infants Hospital and the Rhode Island Blood Center are taking part in a pilot program aimed at bringing cutting-edge stem cell treatments to all New Englanders who need them.

On Wednesday, the hospital announced that it's begun collecting umbilical cord blood from newborn babies.  It's part of a study to determine the feasibility of establishing the first public cord blood bank in New England.

Cord blood is a source of life-saving cells for the treatment of dozens of diseases, including cancer.

"The cord blood from the placenta offers the previously unimagined possibility of supporting another life," says Dr. W. Dwayne Lawrence, who's the Chief of Pathology at Women & Infants.

Up until now, mothers could only donate the umbilical cord to a private bank in case their own children developed an illness later in life.  But this new program allows parents to donate to a public donor bank, which could help save someone's life anywhere in the world.

17-year-old Matt Prato of Lincoln received a cord blood transplant  two years ago, to help him survive a battle with leukemia.  Now his mother, Sue,  hopes Rhode Islanders will become aware of the program, and donate. 

"There are so many children that don't have a match--no siblings or no donor match--and this is the only way to stay alive.  It's the only chance."

The collection process only occurs after a baby is safely delivered.

According to doctors, the cord blood is tested, and can be preserved frozen indefinitely.

Source: 20 May 2009

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