Blood Center Partners With UW To Expand Cord Blood Program

SEATTLE, Aug. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- A new partnership between the University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC) and Puget Sound Blood Center offers hope for people in need of cord blood stem cell transplants as part of their medical therapy.

Representatives from the Cord Blood Program at Northwest Tissue Center/Puget Sound Blood Center announced that the UWMC became a partnering hospital in July. The Cord Blood Program was launched in 1997 after medical researchers determined that stem cells from cord blood could treat many of the same diseases as bone marrow transplants. The program offers expectant mothers the opportunity to save lives by donating their umbilical cord blood -- which contains the stem cells used to treat patients with leukemia, anemias of the blood, Hodgkin's lymphoma, immune deficiency disorders, bone marrow deficiencies and many other life-threatening diseases.

The addition of the UWMC now means that the Cord Blood Program partners with two of the largest birthing centers in the state. In addition to the UW, the other birthing center is Swedish Medical Center -- the state's largest.

The alliance enhances the Cord Blood Program's capacity to meet an increasing need for these life-saving cells. The program provides cord blood stem cells to people locally and nationally.

"This agreement puts our Cord Blood Program in a favorable position to dramatically increase the amount of cord blood collected in this region," said Dr. Jonathan Drachman, medical director of the program and a Blood Center researcher. "The availability of higher quality, or 'usable,' cord blood units increases the likelihood that patients in need of a stem cell transplant are able to receive one."

"Usable" units contain higher stem cell concentrations. Greater stem cell concentrations tend to increase the likelihood of a successful transplant. Though it is too early to qualify the impact of this relationship on the community's access to cord blood, Drachman projected that it could nearly double the number of units collected by the program.

As the only non-profit community cord blood bank in Western Washington, the Blood Center trains hospital medical staff and provides the medical expertise in the collection, processing, storage and distribution of blood collected from donated umbilical cords.

National changes in cord blood transplantation and an increasing number of patient inquiries about donating cord blood proved to be strong indicators that a partnership served the interests of the community. With private, for- profit cord blood programs proliferating across the country, the university believed that working with a non-profit community-focused cord blood program was best.

"There is tremendous community support for this type of program," said Gigi Jurich, M.N., nurse manager in the medical center's Perinatal Services. "We know that as the only non-profit cord blood program in the state, any cord blood collected by Puget Sound Blood Center will be used first to help patients in our community."

Prior to the agreement, the Blood Center's Cord Blood Program underwent a thorough review process by the University of Washington's Institutional Review Board (IRB), an entity that exists to ensure that medical programs offer the highest standards in-patient care possible. The university's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology also evaluated the program in the approval process, as this is where the cord blood collections will actually take place. The Cord Blood program will allow patients to donate their cord blood for possible clinical use or donate to researchers at the UW and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center for work related to the treatment of cancer and blood disorders.

After being trained by Cord Blood Program specialists, the staff in the Labor and Delivery Department at UWMC will collect the cord blood from consented patients and send it to the Blood Center for processing and storage.

Participating hospitals now include UW Medical Center, Swedish Medical Center's Ballard and First Hill campuses, as well as Kapi'olani, Tripler, Queen's and Kaiser Permanente Medical Centers in Hawaii. To learn more about the Cord Blood program, call 206-292-1896 or 1-800-DONATE-1, extension 1896 or visit http://www.psbc.org/.

About Northwest Tissue Center

Northwest Tissue Center is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit, community-sponsored tissue bank established to provide high-quality human tissue for transplant to patients in the Northwest. The program depends on contributions made by generous people who have consented to donation after the death of a family member. Bone, tendons, skin grafts and heart valves can significantly improve the quality of life for transplant recipients by preventing amputation, restoring mobility, relieving pain and sometimes saving lives. The Tissue Center, a department of the nonprofit Puget Sound Blood Center, was established in 1988. For more information, visit the Tissue Center at http://www.nwtc.org/.

About Puget Sound Blood Center

Celebrating 60 years in the community, the Blood Center is internationally recognized for groundbreaking research in transfusion and transplantation medicine. The nonprofit Blood Center is the resource for patients in Western Washington who need blood, tissue and specialized laboratory services. Founded in 1944, the Blood Center has a long and unique tradition of blending community volunteerism, medical science and research to improve patients' lives. The organization directly affects the lives of over half million patients annually in more than 70 hospitals and clinics in 14 counties of Washington State and provides tissue and transplantation support to 185 hospitals across the Northwest.

About the University of Washington Medical Center

UW Medical Center is part of UW Medicine, which also includes the UW School of Medicine, Harborview Medical Center, UW Physicians, UW Medicine Neighborhood Clinics, and the UW's involvement in the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. UW Medicine has major academic and service affiliations with Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and the Veteran's Affairs Medical Centers in Seattle and Boise. U.S. News & World Report has ranked UW Medical Center as the nation's no. 9 hospital in its 2004 Honor Roll of the Best Hospitals in America. UW Medicine is the second-largest recipient of funding from the National Institutes of Health. The School of Medicine has among its 1,600 regular faculty four Nobel Laureates, 26 members of the National Academy of Sciences, and 26 members of the Institute of Medicine. For more information about UW Medicine, visit http://www.uwmedicine.org/ .

Puget Sound Blood Center

CONTACT: Steve McLean of Puget Sound Blood Center, +1-206-292-6511, orpager, +1-206-680-2610

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