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Cord Blood Awareness Month

Bone marrow transplants are a key part of our medical structure. A marrow transplant works by placing the blood-producing cells from one healthy person to a person who suffers with a disease, or when said cells are placed from a healthy part of one person to a sick part. This revolutionary procedure was first attempted sixty nine years ago. Ten years later, the first of these was performed successfully, and they have been making a huge difference since. Bone marrow transplants can be literal lifesavers, especially when it comes to the treatment of severe blood diseases including Lymphoma, Sickle Cell Anemia, and Leukemia. One hundred thirty thousand people per year are diagnosed with a serious blood disease such as these in the United States alone. Forty four thousand of these people will be struck with leukemia, which will kill about half, although many would be in a much safer position with a bone marrow transplant.

The difficulty with bone marrow transplants is the presence of a dearth of donors. There are very few anonymous donors, in fact only two percent of the American population is no the national registry; many of these potential lifesavers also refuse to donate when called upon. This lack of help for the over twenty thousand people who need a transplant to survive exists because these donations are expensive, painful, and have a false stigma of being dangerous. This makes the odds of a match who is not related to the patient in need agreeing to donate very slim. Compounding this trouble is the difficulty faced by those in need of a life-saving marrow transplant in finding a relative in the first place who matches with them. Seventy percent of those in need will be unable to find a match who is a relative.

Originally, those who were unable to find one were left in their life threatening situation with no way out. More recently, however, there is a glimmer of hope. A process by which blood is extracted from umbilical cords post-birth, known as cord blood donation is showing extreme promise. This blood contains adult stem cells with the capability to mature into healthy blood cells. A donation of these cells does the same job as a standard bone marrow transplant with respect to the recipient, however it is a much easier process for the donor. In addition, this method is extremely efficacious because of the immensely low risk to donors and ease of storage of the extracted blood- it literally just needs to be frozen, and can be stored for years in this state. This is why July is designated as national Cord Blood Awareness Month. This is a month to promote advocacy for and awareness of Cord Blood Donation, and to get as many people as possible to donate their children’s cord blood after giving birth to help save as many lives as possible from debilitating blood disease. We hope to spread the message enough so that the donor scarcity issue is solved.

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