Jackson’s birthday gift: Donation of blood from newborn’s umbilical cord could save a life, treat a disorder, aid medical research

 

Jackson Hunter Moore, above, was born Feb. 2 to Mark and Nicole Moore of Auburn. Blood extracted from Jackson’s umbilical cord was the first donation to the new Upstate Cord Blood Bank. (PHOTO BY SUSAN KAHN)

BY AMBER SMITH

Mark and Nicole Moore’s first act as new parents, as a family, was to give back.

After dad cut Jackson Hunter Moore’s umbilical cord and while mom cuddled the newborn in her arms, one of the labor and delivery caregivers turned attention to the remaining length of umbilical cord. Using a needle, blood was extracted from the cord and placed into a sterile bag about the size of a credit card.

That 3 to 5 ounces of stem cell-rich cord blood has the potential to save the life of someone with leukemia or lymphoma. Or it may be used in the treatment of a wide range of other cancers, blood disorders and genetic diseases. Or, it could be used to research new treatments for a variety of diseases.

The umbilical cord connects a developing baby to the placenta, the organ that grows within the uterus during pregnancy. After birth, the cord is severed and clamped, its tip becoming the baby’s belly button.

The Upstate Cord Blood Bank, on Upstate University Hospital’s Community campus, is one of 32 such banks in the United States and one of two in New York state. There is no charge to make a donation of cord blood. Families will pay a collection and storage fee if they want their baby’s cord blood stored for their own future use.

The remaining length of umbilical cord has been discarded as medical waste, but new parents are now being asked to donate their baby’s cord blood to the Upstate Cord Blood Bank, which opened in February. Such blood is rich with young stem cells, which are valuable because they can develop into many different types of cells or be used to repair many types of tissue.

When a stem cell divides, each new cell can either remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a specialized function, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell or a brain cell. Under certain physiologic or experimental conditions, stem cells may be induced to become tissue- or organ-specific cells with special functions. Stem cells offer new potential for treating diabetes, heart disease and other diseases because of their unique regenerative ability.

“We understood it has the potential to help,” Mark Moore said as he cradled Jackson during the bank’s ribbon-cutting event. That’s why he and his wife were eager to make the donation, the bank’s first. “Even if it’s not used for a patient,” Nicole Moore said, “they can still use it for research.”

Each donation is tested, processed and stored at the bank, a 20,000-square foot building on Upstate University Hospital’s Community campus. They are kept in liquid nitrogen tanks at minus 196 degrees Celsius.

Each donation becomes part of a database and could be used for transplant locally, nationally or internationally. There is no cost to donate.

Families soon will have the option of storing their babies’ cord blood at the bank for a fee. The blood would then be available for transplants or stem cell therapy for family members or others, as determined by the family. This may appeal to families who are prone to certain conditions.

Contact the bank at 315-492-2600.

 

This article appears in the spring 2017 issue of Upstate Health magazine.

 

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