Texas Cord Blood Bank Reaches New Milestones in Building Life-Saving Resources
By Norman D. Kalmin, MD
South Texas and its medical community have a valuable resource in the Texas Cord Blood Bank (TCBB), as it continues to reach new milestones in its goal of helping to save many lives.
Located at San Antonio’s South Texas Blood and Tissue Center, the Texas Cord Blood Bank began collecting cord blood in 2005, and has successfully banked more than 2,000 units. That puts TCBB well on the way toward the goal of banking 6,000- 7,000 units within the next three years, increasing the likelihood of finding matches for those in need of replacing hemopoietic cells in the bone marrow.
As a medical professional, being involved with the Texas Cord Blood Bank is fulfilling because only in the last 10 to 15 years has medical science recognized umbilical cord blood’s value in treating fatal and debilitating diseases.
Cord blood, usually discarded with the placenta following the birth of a baby, is valuable because, like bone marrow, it contains stem cells that can develop into a variety of the cellular components of blood. It can be used as an alternative to bone marrow transplants to treat cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, and diseases of the blood-making system such as sickle-cell anemia and severe immunesystem disorders.
It takes time to build a good inventory of cord blood because only about one-third of the units collected are suitable for banking, and TCBB needs a wide ethnic variety of donors to provide genetic diversity. Like bone marrow, numerous factors make it challenging to find a unit that a patient’s body will accept and engraft into the bone marrow. An ethnically diverse bank of cord blood makes it easier to find suitable transplants.
For decades, bone marrow transplants have been the only source of blood-forming stem cells that doctors had for treating patients with blood and immune disorders. Bone marrow continues to play an important role, but it is not always easy to locate healthy individuals to donate bone marrow that is compatible with the patients in need.
Today, TCBB collects cord blood at five Texas hospitals, including two in San Antonio. Although we are just getting started, the Texas Cord Blood Bank has provided five matches for patients in the past year.
the state Legislature has been essential to building the TCBB, and generous private donors made it possible for the TCBB to take advantage of a matching state grant.
Recent new funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will allow for the TCBB to expand and become a truly statewide resource, as an important contributor to the national Cord Blood and Marrow registries.
I encourage physicians in San Antonio to join us in this endeavor by keeping the Texas Cord Blood Bank in
mind if you have a patient who is about to deliver a baby. Together, we can take something that previously would have been discarded as waste, and put it to use in saving lives.
Norman Kalmin, MD, is president, CE, and medical director of the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center.