Blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan provided its 100th unit of umbilical cord blood on Monday – and has revealed that the potentially lifesaving blood was collected at Leicester Royal Infirmary. The news comes as the charity calls for more pregnant women in Leicester, Manchester and London to donate their cord and give life twice in one day.
The cord blood, which was donated by a selfless Leicester mother after her baby was born, contains valuable stem cells. These stem cells were extracted and stored at the Anthony Nolan Cell Therapy centre in Nottingham prior to being selected for a patient with blood cancer.
Despite being incredibly valuable, cord blood is usually discarded after birth. Leicester is home to two of the four UK hospitals where Anthony Nolan has cord-collection facilities, selected for the wide range of people they serve and the ethnic diversity in the local area. Leicester Royal Infirmary, Leicester General Hospital, St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester and King’s College Hospital in London have helped contribute 6,100 units of cord blood, which have been banked at Anthony Nolan’s Cell Therapy Centre in Nottingham.
Donating cord blood is non-invasive and risk-free for mothers and babies, and does not impact on a mother’s birth plan. Once the birth is over, leftover blood is collected from the umbilical cord and placenta and screened. Units with a high stem cell count, which are suitable for transplant, are stored in the cord bank at a temperature of -196°C. Units of cord blood containing fewer cells may be used for Anthony Nolan’s research into immunotherapies to treat transplant patients.
Cord blood transplants have several advantages over adult donation. Banked cord blood is available immediately, so can be vital for people in desperate need of a transplant. Furthermore, because the stem cells in cord blood mature to suit their recipient, they can be used to treat people with rare tissue types who do not have a match on the adult register.
Daniel Gibson, Head of Cord Blood Development at Anthony Nolan, said: ‘We’re delighted to have reached the milestone of shipping our 100th cord unit -- that’s 100 people who have received a second chance of life. Cord blood has become absolutely vital in the fight against blood cancers such as leukaemia. New mums have the opportunity to give life twice in one day, by donating their umbilical cord blood to someone in desperate need of a stem cell transplant.’
To find out more and register your interest in donating your cord, visit www.anthonynolan.org/cord (you must be planning to give birth at Leicester Royal Infirmary, Leicester General Hospital, St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester or King’s College Hospital in London).