July is Cord Blood Donation Awareness month.
As one of four hospitals in Canada - and the only one in BC - to collect cord blood donations, we're shining a light on the amazing impact that 'giving life twice' can have when a newborn's cord blood is donated.
Cord blood is full of stem cells that can help cure more than 80 types of diseases and disorders like Aplastic Anemia, Leukemia and other inherited immune disorders. When a baby's cord blood is donated after birth, it is really giving life twice.
Donated cord blood that is not viable for use in transplants for treatment of diseases or disorders, donations can still improve the lives of others. Researchers here at BC Women's - and elsewhere - use cord blood donations in studies to unlock medical mysteries that may benefit premature infants.
For example, Dr. Pascal Lavoie and team at BC Women's found that immune cells of premature babies do not use nutrients, oxygen and energy in the usual way. That may be a key reason why premature babies are at greater risk of infection.
In the past few years, studies using donated cord blood led to a major clinical trial in Canada, which remains underway, called MOBYDIck for Maternal Omega-3 supplementation to reduce Bronchopulmatory Dysplasia (BPD) in premature infants. This is the most common complication in infants born younger than 32 weeks of gestation (i.e. 8 weeks earlier than the normal term of gestation). It affects about 3,000 premature babies each year in Canada. Babies with BPD have difficulties breathing on their own during the newborn period and usually require a mechanical ventilator for several weeks, sometimes months and occasionally for years. Even if symptoms of BPD resolve in a majority of babies, over the first few years of life, many will be affected with diminished lung function. That may not be clinically apparent at an early age, but it is suspected that it may be a key cause of chronic lung disease in adult years.
Whether a donation of a baby's cord blood is stored in the National Cord Blood Bank for use in treating patients with diseases, or for use in research to uncover new findings that lead to treatments and cures, it is certainly a gift that gives life twice.
Learn more about how to donate your baby's cord blood and the Canadian Cord Blood Bank. Want to understand how stem cells help? Check out this video.