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Fewer Shanghai mothers preserve their cord blood

2013-06-04 10:10 Global Times     Web Editor: Wang YuXia comment

Far fewer mothers in Shanghai than in other big cities opt to have their umbilical cord blood preserved, primarily due to a lack of public awareness, a senior official with the Shanghai Cord Blood Bank told the Global Times Monday.

About 4.4 percent of mothers in Shanghai have their cord blood preserved after birth, compared with 15 percent to 20 percent of mothers in Beijing and Tianjin, according to statistics from the Shanghai Cord Blood Bank and Zhang Jiaqing, vice director of the bank's clinical service department.

Shanghai lags behind due to a dearth of education on the benefits of cord blood preservation in the city, Zhang said.

A mother of a 5-month-old baby surnamed Zhao said she decided against preserving her cord blood because she was unaware that it could be stored for her child's personal use. "I've read stories about leukemia patients receiving other people's cord blood, so I thought preserved cord blood could only be used by others," Zhao told the Global Times.

Umbilical cord blood is rich with hematopoietic stem cells, which once harvested can be used for bone marrow transplants and other lifesaving treatments for a variety of diseases, including cancer and many genetic disorders.

If a child was diagnosed with a disease like leukemia, the preserved stem cells could be used for a transplant without any fear of rejection, according to Lu Daopei, an expert in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation from the Chinese Academy of Engineering. The cells could also be used to treat other close relatives of the donor.

Preserving the cord blood is critical for successfully treating leukemia, which strikes as many as four people per 100,000 in China. Each year, about 40,000 children are diagnosed with leukemia in the country, according to the bank. A hematopoietic stem cell transplant remains the only radical cure for the disease.

The Shanghai Cord Blood Bank offers mothers two options for preserving cord blood.

They can either donate it to the bank or pay to have it stored in case the child or a family member gets sick in the future, Zhang said.

The bank charges 5,800 yuan ($946) to initially collect the cord blood, plus 1,000 yuan each year for storage.

About 20,000 samples of cord blood have been donated in Shanghai, accounting for about half of the donations in China, Zhang said.

"Many banks in China have closed their donation sections and only collect cord blood for private use. However, we continue to accept donations and the public can search the cord blood sample information on our website," Zhang told the Global Times.

The bank does not make information about cord blood stored for private use available to the public.

The bank offers several benefits to families who agree to allow their preserved cord blood to be donated. If a patient ends up using their cord blood, the donors will receive priority access to the bank if they or any of their family members get sick in the future, Zhang said. In addition, the bank will refund the fees they paid to store their cord blood and will waive any future fees for the blood they might acquire.

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