Cord blood bank starts at Mercy

In an effort to battle debilitating illnesses such as sickle cell anemia, Mercy Medical Center announced Monday the state's first public program allowing parents to donate and bank the stem cells from their newborns' umbilical cords.

The stem cells are important because they are the same type as those found in bone marrow and can be used in transplants and to treat 90 deadly diseases that affect thousands of Americans each year, including certain types of cancers and blood disorders.Yet few people donate to cord blood banks now. Many people don't know they can donate; others may balk at the thousands of dollars in fees for private programs. There are only about 20 free public banks around the country, according to the National Marrow Donor Program, a nonprofit registry for bone marrow and cord blood patients and donors.

"This a big step for cord blood donations," said Frances Verter, founder and director of the Parent's Guide to Cord Blood Banking. "So many people will be helped by this. This will help treat more people with life-threatening illnesses."

Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun
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