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New mothers save lives by giving precious cord blood
More than 100 mothers at a London hospital have donated umbilical cord blood to save lives.
All gave birth at University College Hospital which today officially launched its donation centre.
Since the NHS unit opened six weeks ago, nearly a third of women given the option to donate - 140 - have done so, potentially saving as many patients.
Cord blood, which remains in the placenta and umbilical cord after birth, is rich in stem cells that can help patients whose bone marrow is not working, including cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
The UCH unit operates 16 hours a day, five days a week. It is one of six UK collection sites managed by NHS Blood and Transplant, including St George's in Tooting and Northwick Park in north London.
Rachael Hough, a consultant haematologist at UCH, said the system of banks helped patients needing life-saving cord blood transplants to receive treatment more quickly. "The unit here will make a significant contribution to the national cord blood bank.
"These banks offer real hope to patients with life-threatening cancers who would otherwise have no alternative treatments available." University student Madelaine Burke, 19, from Northolt is among those who have benefited. She was treated for an acute form of leukaemia with a cord blood transplant four years ago at UCH, with the blood in those days having to be brought in from another hospital.
Today Ms Burke said: "There is no doubt my transplant was life-saving. But a lot of mothers don't realise that an umbilical cord can be so precious. I would ask more to donate."
The cord blood banks are in areas which serve ethnically diverse communities, in the hope that more donations will come from black and ethnic minorities who have to wait longer to find a matched donor.
Expectant mothers register their interest as potential donors during their pregnancy and provide consent in advance for collection, testing and use of the cord blood.
Lynda Hamlyn, chief executive of NHS Blood and Transplant, said: "I'm delighted the facility at UCH has proved to be an immediate success and we will be working hard to increase the number of collections.
"We have recently moved to collecting cords 24 hours a day, seven days a week at four of the six collection facilities. This increases the opportunity for mothers to donate."
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