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To Your Health: New moms can save lives

Pauline Jacobs

Pauline Jacobs

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Updated: December 22, 2012 6:11AM



New moms now have the opportunity to make painless donations to advance disease research and treatment.

Lullaby Birthplace, the maternity unit at Franciscan St. James Health, is offering all mothers the opportunity to donate umbilical cord blood and placenta tissue to a national donor marrow program.

These donations can be used in disease treatment, stem cell research and a growing list of other applications.

In the past, cord blood and placenta tissue were discarded after the birth of a baby. We now understand blood cells from the umbilical cord can be used much like bone marrow.

“This breakthrough technology harms no one and is life-saving, two tenets that are consistent with our Franciscan philosophy,” said Seth C. R. Warren, president and CEO of Franciscan St. James Health.

Working in conjunction with Life Line Stem Cell, the maternity unit makes it easy to help.

Expectant mothers receive prenatal information from their obstetricians regarding this program. Mothers arriving for delivery are given the option to participate in the donation program at that time. A Life Line professional provides them with information, a consent form is signed and the mother completes a medical social history questionnaire. So far, approximately 90 percent of new moms agree to participate.

Following delivery, the umbilical cord is cut and the cord blood is drawn and placed into a small bag that is later shipped for stem cell extraction and testing. Stem cells meeting certain specifications can be used in transplants and are shipped to the national donor marrow program in Washington, D.C. Other cells may be used for research.

“It’s important that parents know that any patient in the country can be saved from their child’s donation,” said Life Line executive director, Terri Tibbot. “These parents and their children are definitely heroes.”

Stem cells extracted from the umbilical cord can be used in a variety of applications, including treatment for cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma, some anemias, and other diseases.

Only a small percentage of patients who require a bone marrow transplant are able to find a match within their family. However, umbilical cord blood is 10 times more likely to produce a match than other sources.

The chances of finding a match from another source of bone marrow are one in 200,000.

Using umbilical cord blood significantly improves these odds to one in 20,000.

Future applications for umbilical cord blood may include treatment for Type 1 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.

Grafts from the placenta’s amnion layer are only obtained from mothers who are having a C-section.

These grafts are among the most popular in the country. Applications are numerous and include ocular resurfacing, repair of pressure wounds, burn treatment and breast reconstruction. New ways of using these grafts are constantly being developed.

Pauline Jacobs is the nurse manager at Franciscan St. James Health’s Lullaby Birthplace. Franciscan St. James is a member of the Southland Health Alliance.



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