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MPs call for more cord blood donations

6 February 2012
Appeared in BioNews 643

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Stem Cell Transplantation last week called for more facilities in the UK to increase the collection and banking of valuable cord blood.

'The UK is lagging behind other countries in its development of public cord blood banking', Labour MP Mark Tami, chair of the APPG, said. 'We hope our report will add new impetus to the Government's national plan for cord blood, and save the lives of 200 or more people each year who currently have no hope at all'.

The report endorses the findings of the UK Stem Cell Strategic Forum (SCSF), which in 2010 made recommendations aimed at increasing the number of stem cell transplants in the UK. It calls on the SCSF to determine the location of 13 cord blood collection hospitals to increase total donations to meet demand for transplants, outlined in its 2010 proposals. The report also stresses the importance of research and training to ensure the collection of blood is done as safely as possible for both the mother and baby.

Cord blood, which contains stem cells, is taken from the umbilical cord and placenta following the birth of a baby and can be used instead of bone marrow in the treatment of blood cancers such as leukaemia. At present, most cord blood is discarded after birth as clinical waste and there are few centres that collect donated blood. A recent nationwide survey found that 85 percent of women would donate cord blood so long as it had no impact on themselves or their baby, showing widespread public support for the aims of the APPG report.

Last year, the UK imported more than 80 percent of cord blood units used for transfusion because there was either no cord blood available or no matching donor. The lack of cord blood donors is especially acute for people from Asian, black, mixed race or other ethnic backgrounds and one of the targets of the report is to increase donations from these groups.

The Department for Health has granted £4 million to the bodies responsible for managing the UK's public cord banks. NHS Blood and Transplant and the Anthony Nolan Trust hope to increase the adult donor register and ensure that cord blood bank reaches 50,000 donation units. This could provide transplants for 85 percent of patients who require a stem cell transplant, but for whom there is currently no donor to match their needs.

The importance of cord blood banking was stressed by Professor Sir Mike Richards, the National Clinical Director for Cancer for the Department for Health. 'The development of cord blood banking has been an area of rapid development and intense international cooperation', he said. 'More than 20,000 cord blood transplants have been reported worldwide and more than 400,000 cord blood units have been stored in over 100 banks. Cord blood is now being used to treat more than 70 life threatening illnesses, and research is showing it also has huge promise for regenerative medicine, including therapies to treat spinal cord conditions and Parkinson's disease'.

Cord blood transplantation: meeting the unmet demand
Anthony Nolan/All Party Parliamentary Group on Stem Cell Transplantation report |  31 January 2012
Poll Digest - Social - Anthony Nolan Umbilical Cord Survey
Anthony Nolan Press Release |  31 January 2012
17 February 2014 - by Dr Barbara Kramarz 
A leukaemia patient in the UK, previously given up to 18 months to live, is now in remission after transplant of stem cells from two babies' umbilical cords.
6 June 2012 - by Holly Rogers 
Stem cells will be harvested and stored at an umbilical cord donor centre at the Birmingham Women's Hospital, UK, according to a BBC report...
13 February 2012 - by Dr Rebecca Hill 
US researchers have received approval to test whether cord blood stem cells could be used to reverse hearing loss in children...
22 November 2010 - by Dr Karen Devine 
In April 2008, a Los Angeles Times article posed the question: 'Can a child's umbilical cord blood be used to treat his own cerebral palsy?' (1) The article referred to the extraordinary improvement in health of a little boy in the US, Dallas Hextell, who has the motor neurone disease, cerebral palsy...
16 August 2010 - by Dr Helen Busby 
The possibilities presented by the storage or 'banking' of stem cells from umbilical cord blood after birth have attracted considerable public and media interest since the early part of this decade...
16 March 2010 - by Dr Karen Devine 
Back in 2002, I recall a story in Red magazine about a father who had allegedly collected the stem cells from his newborn baby's umbilical cord in the delivering hospital's car park. It said he had been handed the placenta - wrapped in newspaper - by the midwife and told that if he wanted to save the cord blood, it would have to be done outside. You might say that this is rather a strange place to procure such precious cells that have the ability to treat a range of blood cancers and disorder...
25 January 2010 - by Dr Karen Devine 
In last week's BioNews, Mr David Burrowes, MP, commented on his successful introduction of a private member's bill on umbilical cord blood (UCB) donation in the UK Parliament in 2008, and how his continued efforts to raise awareness of the benefits of saving UCB for public use has been favourably met in a recent adjournment debate in the House of Commons....
10 January 2010 - by Dr Karen Devine 
Conservative MP for Enfield, Southgate, David Burrowes, led an adjournment debate in the House of Commons this week on the issue of umbilical cord blood banking and use. Stem cells from the umbilical cord of newborn babies have been successfully used as an alternative to bone marrow in the treatment of many blood disorders such as leukaemia, sickle-cell disease and immuno-deficiencies. Clinical research has also shown that cord blood may be developed to treat diabetes, liver th...
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