Lives Could Bank On Cord Blood

Wednesday, May 14th 2008, 10:18 pm
By: News On 6

A new bank developed for umbilical cord blood could save the lives of Oklahomans facing life-threatening illnesses.

In most cases, in Oklahoma, when a mother gives birth, the umbilical cord is considered medical waste and is thrown away; but that "medical waste" could be the key to survival for some.

Cathy and Ryan Russell were just days away from becoming first-time parents. They had everything ready for their little son's arrival.

As part of their preparation, the couple made the choice to buy an umbilical cord blood kit, which they purchased through a private out-of-state company.

"It runs between $1,100 to $1,700 to do the collection at the time of birth and around $100 a year for storage," Cathy Russell said.

Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, (D-District 6), said for most Oklahomans, the purchase would not be cost effective. Gumm spent the last several years working to create a public cord blood bank which would allow Oklahomans to donate cord blood for free.

"It would be out there for public use if it was a genetic match, much like the bone marrow registry," Gumm said.

Cord blood, which is rich in stem cells, is used to treat a variety of health problems. With Oklahoma's unique ethnic population, supporters of the bank said they believe a lot of people could be helped.

Dr. George Selby, the Director of blood and marrow transplant for the OU Medical Center, said it's a great opportunity for Oklahomans.

"It will allow Oklahomans to participate as donors in a life saving procedure for people anywhere in the world," Selby said.

For the Russell's, the cost of the kit was worth their peace of mind.

The cost of the umbilical cord blood bank is expected to be around $3.5 million to start up and Sen. Gumm said he plans to seek private funding to get the bank opened.