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Cord Blood Makes the Cut

5,000 to 6,000 patients have received transplants of stem cell-rich blood harvested from newborn babies’ umbilical cords.An estimated 2,000 cord-blood transplants took place in 2004 alone, with 600 in the United States and 800 in Japan.About two-thirds of cord-blood transplants treat patients with leukemia. One-quarter treat patients suffering from genetic diseases. In the United States, more than 40,000 mothers have donated blood from their newborns’ umbilical cords to the National Marrow Donor Program’s cord-blood banks. Another 27,000 have donated to the New York Blood Center’s National Cord Blood Program.Congress appropriated a total of $20 million for 2004 and 2005 to subsidize collection and research on cord blood with the aim of creating a bank of 150,000 donors, enough to provide a match for 80 to 90 percent of Americans.The United States has some 20 private cord-blood banks, which typically charge $1,000 to $1,500 to collect the blood and approximately $100 per year to store it for the exclusive use of the family. One such private facility, Cord Blood Registry in San Bruno, CA, reports that it has collected cord-blood samples from some 80,000 clients.In its position paper recommending against commercial cord-blood banking, the American Academy of Pediatrics cites estimates of the chance of a child ever needing to use his stored cord blood that range between 1 in 1,000 and 1 in 200,000.

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