Blood stem cells are immature cells that produce the other cells found in our bloodstreams: red blood cells, platelets and white blood cells. Blood stem cells can come from bone marrow, from the bloodstream itself, or from umbilical cord blood.
As a source of blood stem cells, cord blood can be collected in advance, reducing wait times. It also allows for more lenient matching thus increases the chance of finding a match for the patient.
Roughly 70 per cent of Canadians who need stem cell transplants cannot find a suitable donor from within their own families.
Canada needs donors from all ethnic backgrounds: a more diverse cord blood supply means better chances of finding a match when someone needs a transplant. The best opportunity for a successful match is typically from someone of the same ethnic background.
Donating cord blood does not interfere with the natural process of delivery. Because blood stem cells are collected from the umbilical cord or placenta after the baby is delivered, there are no significant risks to the mother or her baby.
With every cord blood donation, Canadian Blood Services is required to test the mother’s blood for diseases such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV, the virus that causes AIDS), hepatitis B and C, human T-lymphotropic virus (HTVL), syphilis and West Nile Virus (WNV). The baby’s cord blood will also be tested to determine its match to patient and blood type, and to confirm the blood does not contain cytomegalovirus or hemoglobin abnormalities such as sickle cell disease.
Why Cord Blood Is Important
Blood collected from the umbilical cord and placenta after the delivery of a healthy baby, contains stem cells that are used in stem cell transplants. These blood forming stem cells are currently being used to treat over 80 diseases and disorders including leukemia, lymphoma, aplastic anemia, sickle cell anemia, as well as other inherited immune system and metabolic disorders.
Canadian Blood Services is building a national public cord blood bank, which collects, processes, tests and stores donated umbilical cord blood. Many Canadians requiring a stem cell transplant have unique stem cell matching needs reflecting Canada’s unique ethnic diversity. Stem Cell donors from all ethnic backgrounds are needed. In the past, Canada was 100 percent reliant on international cord blood stem cell donations. The national public cord blood bank will make cord blood stem cells more readily available for Canadian patients who need them.
In 2011/2012 Canadian Blood Services launched a $12.5 million fundraising campaign, For All Canadians, to build a national public cord blood bank. As at August 2014, $9 million in cash and pledges has been raised to support this campaign goal of $12.5 million.
The national public cord blood bank is part of Canadian Blood Services’ OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network. Canadian Blood Services recruits healthy volunteer blood stem cell donors, searches for available stem cells on behalf of patients who require a blood stem cell transplant from a non-relative, and coordinates the delivery of blood stem cells when a match is found.
Data from the national public cord blood bank is uploaded to an international database of more than 611,000 cord blood donations from 47 cord blood banks around the world.
Healthy pregnant women 18 and older, not having a multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets) can donate their baby’s cord blood after delivery with signed consent if neither they nor the infant has any transmittable diseases or medical conditions that could be passed on to a patient who receives a cord blood stem cell transplant. Currently, Canadian Blood Services’ accepts cord blood donations at no cost in:
Ottawa — at The Ottawa Hospital General campus
Brampton (Greater Toronto Area) — at the William Osler Health System’s Brampton Civic Hospital
Edmonton — at the Alberta Health Services’ Lois Hole Hospital for Women*
Vancouver —at the BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre*
* Until the planned Go-Live launch in December 2014, these sites are using cord blood donations for validation purposes to prepare the cord blood bank’s equipment, train staff and test the processes within the national public cord blood bank.
Canadian Blood Services manages the national supply of blood, blood products and stem cells, and related services for all the provinces and territories (excluding Québec). We also lead an integrated, interprovincial system for organ donation and transplantation for all of Canada.
For more information
To learn more about cord blood, please visit: Cord Blood or contact us at: