San Jose, Calif. A treatment for more than 45 disorders, including sickle-cell anemia and some types of leukemia, can be found in an unlikely place: hospital trash containers.
A newborn baby's umbilical cord, routinely discarded after birth, contains life-giving stem cells that could help thousands of sick Americans each year. But the current system for collecting, storing and allocating donated cord blood is fragmented and inefficient, according to a sweeping Institute of Medicine report released Thursday.
There is no lack of new parents willing to donate their babies' cords, said Dr. Jeffrey Chell, CEO of the nonprofit National Marrow Donor Program, which oversees a registry of donated cord blood.
"The challenge we have right now is to have the funds available to collect the cord blood units needed," Chell said.
Congress, which commissioned the new report, appropriated $10 million last year for the establishment of a national cord blood bank.
Scientists who drafted the report estimate 100,000 new cord blood donations are needed nationwide to meet the growing demand -- a small number, given that millions of babies are born in this country every year. An estimated 11,700 Americans probably would be candidates for a cord blood transplant each year, said Kristine Gebbie, chairwoman of the committee that wrote the report.