November 20, 2013 1:13 am

Edmonton hospital first in western Canada to offer public cord blood bank

EDMONTON – Edmonton’s Lois Hole Hospital for Women has been chosen as one of only four collection sites for Canada’s new national public cord blood bank.

Starting next year, mothers giving birth at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women will able to donate umbilical cord and placenta blood, which can be used for stem cell transplants.

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Until about 15 years ago, doctors only used stem cells from bone marrow for transplant. But umbilical and placenta stem cells have proven to be more effective.

“They can grow up to be red blood cells or platelets or white blood cells,” explained Dr. Graham Sher, Chief Executive Officer of Canadian Blood Services. “They’re the ideal cells to replaced damaged cells in diseases like leukemia.”

Five-year-old Evan Wallace had a stem cell transplant last year to treat an aggressive form of leukemia.

“It’s scary because until you know you have a match, you don’t have anything. So lots of hoping, and wishing, and praying,” said her mother, Jill Wallace.

There are always about 1,000 Canadians waiting for a stem cell transplant to treat about 50 diseases.

The Wallace family managed to find a suitable donor for Evan from the international cord blood bank after a three month search. However, about 50 per cent of Canadian patients who need a stem cell transplant are not able to find a match.

Thanks to the national cord blood bank – and now the Lois Hole Hospital – those odds will increase. The Edmonton hospital, located within the Royal Alexandra Hospital campus, will start collecting cord and placenta blood early next year.

“We are excited to be joining forces with the Canadian Blood Services on this important initiative,” said Joanna Pawlyshyn, Operational Lead, Royal Alexandra Hospital. “Through this partnership, we can provide increased hope for difficult-to-match patients waiting for stem cell transplants, and make a significant difference to the health of people in our community, across the country, and around the world.”

Federal and provincial funding will cover most of the $48 million project. Canadian Blood Services still needs to raise another $5 million.

With files from Su-Ling Goh, Global News

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