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U of M enters into new umbilical cord blood bank partnership

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The University of Minnesota and the St. Louis Cord Blood Bank in Missouri have started a new partnership to collect umbilical cord blood for potential life-saving procedures, the Star Tribune reports.

The deal is expected to be finalized Tuesday. The paper says cord blood collected after childbirth will be sent to St. Louis and stored and matched to patients in need of it.

The American Red Cross used to bank cord blood in three Minnesota hospitals in Minneapolis, but got out of the business six years ago. A U of M pathologist and specialist in transfusion medicine attempted to get the university take over the program, but couldn't secure the federal funding needed to do so, the Star Tribune says.

The collection of umbilical cord blood enables doctors to transplant regenerative stem cells in the blood of the recipient, which has helped fight such cancers as leukemia, according to the March of Dimes.

"Stem cells can be used to treat various genetic disorders that affect the blood and immune system, leukemia and certain cancers, and some inherited disorders of body chemistry," the organization says. "To date, more than 70 disorders have been treated with stem cells from cord blood."

The St. Louis Cord Blood Bank says its program meets the highest ethical standards.

"Cord blood stem cells are collected after the birth of a healthy infant, and pose no risk to the donating mother or baby," the program says. "Therefore, there are no ethical issues or controversy connected with the use of these cells."

Researchers say cord blood has the ability to kill cancer cells and rebuild immune systems damaged by chemotherapy and radiation.

The U of M is a pioneer in cord blood procedures, as Dr. John Wagner in 1990 performed the world’s first cord blood transplant for leukemia, the Star Tribune says.

In April, Wagner and his team performed a cord blood transplant to help a 12-year-old HIV-positive boy suffering from leukemia.

Despite encouraging results, the boy died in July, WCCO reports.

When the boy died, doctors could not find any traces of HIV or leukemia in his blood.

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