Temple University Hospital announced today that it is establishing the city’s first public cord-blood donation program to collect stem cell-rich blood from discarded umbilical cords. The hospital’s Women and Infant’s Division is partnering with the Mason Shaffer Foundation and Community Blood Services, a non-profit organization that operates a public cord bank in New Jersey, to establish the Mason Shaffer Public Cord Blood Program at Temple. It comes at no charge to parents who opt in or to Temple Hospital.
"Collecting the cord blood is a relatively straight-forward process," says Dimitrios Mastrogiannis, a Temple physician, director of obstetrics and maternal fetal medicine, and director of labor and delivery. Once the baby is born, the umbilical cord is clamped and cut. The blood remaining in a portion of the umbilical cord and the placenta is collected, with no risk to baby or mother. Temple will not be storing the blood on site, but rather shipping it to a storage site in New Jersey. "Cord blood is a rich source of stem cells and can be used to treat leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia, and about 70 other cancers and diseases,” he says.
Expectant moms who deliver at Temple will be informed about the optional program and given the opportunity to donate their baby's umbilical cord blood for free. The donation is listed in a national registry for patients in need of stem cell transplants and for researchers working to develop new treatments with stem cells.
With its high percentage of minority patients, Temple is uniquely poised to make a major contribution to the cord-blood donation pool. "It's more difficult for African-Americans and Hispanics to find a match donor, so increasing the pool will benefit the community," says Mastrogiannis.
Temple's program is one of only a dozen such public programs statewide, and the first of its kind in Philly. It's named after five-year-old PA resident Mason Shaffer, who received a life-saving cord-blood donation when he was just seven months old. Community Blood Services, the New Jersey-based nonprofit that oversees the cord blood collection, already operates at three New Jersey hospitals and at Lankenau Medical Center in Wynnewood.
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