World Cord Blood Day raises awareness about cord blood donations
A week after Sedrick was born, he was diagnosed with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), a rare genetic disease that causes a child to be born with little to no immune system. Sedrick’s diagnosis meant he was susceptible to life-threatening infections. His parents isolated him, and themselves, at home while eagerly waiting for a cure.
Fortunately, Sedrick received a lifesaving cord blood transplant several weeks after his diagnosis and is now looking forward to his 4-year birthday.
“It was such a relief,” said Sedrick’s mother Franziska. “You’ve been told your baby is going to die without a cord blood transplant and you’re just waiting to hear if there’s a match. Once we got the call that we found the match, we knew that we could move forward.”
World Cord Blood Day on Nov. 15 celebrates lives saved by cord blood transplants and raises awareness about the importance of donating cord blood for patients like Sedrick.
Cord blood is the blood that remains in the baby’s umbilical cord and placenta after birth. It contains stem cells which can be used as an alternative to bone marrow to treat some forms of cancer and other immune disorders like SCID. When parents donate their child’s cord blood, they are helping to save lives globally.
For organizations like GenCure, a subsidiary of San Antonio nonprofit BioBridge Global, World Cord Blood Day raises awareness about the importance of donating cord blood. The Texas Cord Blood Bank (TCBB), a program of GenCure, is one of 13 public cord blood banks in the nation and the official cord blood bank of the state of Texas.
“What’s moving to me every time we send out a unit is the thought of the recipient,” said Dr. Rogelio Zamilpa, senior director of apheresis and cord blood center at GenCure. “Knowing it could be going to help, for example, a 2-month-old baby that has leukemia, that’s pretty powerful.”
To be used as a transplant, the cord blood unit must match as closely as possible to a patient’s genetic markers. Patients are more likely to match donors from their own ethnic or racial background. TCBB partners with Be The Match, the national marrow donor registry, to help finding matches for patients.
“One thing that’s unique to us is the ethnic groups in our inventory,” Zamilpa said. “Hispanic is the largest representative ethnic background in our inventory.”
There are more than 12,000 units from TCBB on the Be the Match registry. Another 472 have been sent for transplant. Donated cord blood that doesn’t go into the registry goes to research for new therapies.
For families of patients like Sedrick, donating cord blood can save a life.
“Donate it,” said Franziska. “It wouldn’t cost you anything. Otherwise, the cord blood is discarded when it could become something lifesaving for another child.”
GenCure partners with hospitals in the South Texas region to collect cord blood donations. To learn more about donating cord blood or making a financial contribution to Texas Cord Blood Bank, visit GenCure.org/TCBB.