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September 17, 2012
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

Upstate breaks ground for umbilical cord blood bank

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Upstate Medical University will begin construction on a $15 million Upstate Cord Blood Bank that will collect, process and store umbilical cord blood donated by families throughout Central and northern New York to be used by those in need of life-saving medical treatments and for medical research. State Sen. John DeFrancisco played a key role in securing the $15 million funding for the building, enabling Syracuse to have one of the only two public cord blood banks in New York.

Umbilical cord blood is blood that remains in the placenta and umbilical cord after childbirth. It is a rich source of hematopoietic stem cells that have the potential of being used in the treatment of dozens of diseases, like cancer and sickle cell.

Upstate President David R. Smith, M.D., heralded the addition of a public cord blood bank in Upstate New York. “The opportunity to bring a public cord blood bank to Upstate New York is significant in so many ways,” he said. “Through the donations of cord blood from families all across our region, we have the ability to save lives through transplantation and further fuel biomedical research that may move us closer to finding breakthroughs for dozens of diseases. Being able to develop this cord blood bank and make it a resource for our greater community, speaks to the very core of the mission of Upstate Medical University.”

The two-story building will be between 10,000 and 15,000 square feet and be located on Upstate’s Community Campus at 4900 Broad Road, Syracuse. Upstate provides obstetric services on the Community Campus, and also is home to the Regional Perinatal Center, which offers advance perinatal care to patients throughout Upstate New York.

The building’s design and construction work and equipment is made possible by a $15 million state grant obtained by DeFrancisco.

“Syracuse now will have one of only 27 public umbilical cord blood banks in the country,” DeFranciso said. “It is an exciting opportunity for Central New York to lead our state by building a facility that can save the lives of children, like Jared Saya and Luca Vassallo. (Saya and Vassallo are area residents who received treatments with umbilical cord blood.)

“Across the country, cord blood stem cells have been used in treating many illnesses including leukemia, myelodysplastic syndromes, lymphomas, inherited red cell abnormalities and other cancers. Now, doctors in Upstate New York will be able to use the umbilical cord, and its stem cells—that would otherwise be discarded as medical waste—for valuable life-saving treatments and research,” DeFrancisco said.

The state Health Department will develop a program to make expectant mothers and the public more aware of umbilical cord blood banking.

“We appreciate the leadership and vision of Sen. DeFrancisco, who has helped efforts to publicize the benefits of cord blood donation and making the Cord Blood Bank a reality for Central New York,” Smith said.

Designation as a public cord blood bank

The designation of Upstate Cord Blood Bank as a public blood bank is important in that there is no cost to donate and donated cord blood is available to anyone who needs it.

Once donated, the cord blood will be stored in the bank and made available to transplant centers in the United States and throughout the world for patients needing life-saving transplants. The cord blood units will be listed on the Be The Match registry, which maintains a large listing of cord blood units available for transplant. Those units that are not suitable for transplantation will be made available to researchers, both at Upstate Medical University and around the country.

Unlike a public cord blood bank, private banks are for-profit organizations that charge fees to collect, process and store a baby’s umbilical cord blood for the exclusive use for the families who made the donation. Public cord blood banks do not charge fees and make stem cells available for anyone who needs them.

When the Upstate Cord Blood Bank opens, it will be one of only two public cord blood banks in New York. The other is the National Cord Blood Program in Long Island City, N.Y.

The Upstate Cord Blood Bank will operate under strict guidelines and protocols, established by state and federal health organizations, including the state Health Department, the Food and Drug Administration and the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy.

Upstate will work with hospitals in the Upstate region to develop guidelines and agreements to enable mothers who deliver in this area the ability to donate their cord blood for free. Cord blood that is not donated is discarded as medical waste.

Upstate officials hope the cord blood bank will receive donations from 10,000 births a year. That would represent 50 percent of the approximately 20,000 births in Central New York annually. The Upstate Cord Blood Bank will begin accepting donations once it opens in the fall of 2014.

How is cord blood donated

Once a mother has delivered her baby and after the umbilical cord is cut and clamped, a medical provider will insert a syringe into the umbilical vein that is still attached to the placenta. The process, which takes less than 15 minutes, yields about 3 to 5 ounces of cord blood, which is then sent to a cord blood bank for processing and storage.

Treatments with cord blood

Stem cell transplants from umbilical cord blood, researchers say, may be more suitable for transplants than the more common stem cells taken from bone marrow as treatment for various cancers. Umbilical cord blood has an underdeveloped immune cell system providing less of a chance that the transplanted cells will attack the recipient’s immune system.

Hematopoietic stem cells are capable of forming all different types of blood forming cells in the human body. They are used to treat some cancers, metabolic disorders and immunodeficiency diseases, such as sickle cell anemia. Cord blood is rich in these hematopoietic stem cells.

Research with cord blood

Umbilical cord blood stem cells are valuable to medical research, especially in studies seeking to advance new treatments for cancer. Nearly a dozen Upstate researchers are using stem cells from umbilical cord blood in their research or have expressed an interest in working with them. An available supply of cord blood would enhance and expedite research studies on finding new treatments for various diseases.

Upstate Cord Blood Bank credits: Architect: Francis Cauffman. Engineer: CRB Engineers. Construction Manager: The Pike Company. Project consultants: Nicholas Greco, Ph.D, of the National Center for Regenerative Medicine at Case Western Reserve University; and Karen Snyder, M.Ed, from KLS Consulting & Project Management.

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