Until recently, Canada was the only G8 country without a national, public cord blood bank. Lack of a national bank meant that Canadian patients in need of stem cell transplants had to search for potential matches from public banks around the world. But that changed in late September 2013 with the establishment of the new National Public Cord Blood Bank, run by Canadian Blood Services and part of the OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network.
Because of Canada's unique ethnic diversity, finding matches from other banks worldwide proved to be a significant challenge. Less than 30 per cent of patients in need of a blood stem cell transplant are able to find a match within their family.[i] For those who have to access public banks, only about 50 per cent find a suitable match.[ii] While Canada has numerous private cord blood banks, these can only be accessed by the child whose cord blood was donated, or by a family member.
A significant advantage of having a public cord blood bank is that it is accessible to anyone in need, reflects Canada’s ethnic diversity, and is expected to result in more matches. According to Canadian Blood Services, roughly 1,000 Canadians are currently waiting for life-saving stem cell transplants.[iii]
Typically discarded as medical waste, umbilical cords are a rich source of stem cells, which can help to treat over 50 diseases and disorders, such as leukemia, lymphoma or aplastic anemia, and metabolic disorders.
The first collection sites for the bank have been established in Ottawa, but by mid-2014 umbilical cord blood will also be collected from new mothers in Brampton, Edmonton, and Vancouver. These four cities were selected because they are ethnically diverse and have high birthrates. Over the course of the next six years, Canadian Blood Services aims to collect 18,000 units of cord blood.[iv]
Healthy, pregnant women 18 or older, 34 weeks or later in their pregnancy, and not having a multiple birth, are eligible to donate their baby’s cord blood.
For more information, visit the Canadian Blood Services FAQ.
[iii] Canadian Blood Services. (2013). Overview. Retrieved October 28th from http://www.blood.ca/CentreApps/Internet/UW_V502_MainEngine.nsf/page/Cord-Blood-Overview?OpenDocument&CloseMenu
[iv] Canadian Blood Services. (2013). Stem Cells Save Lives. Retrieved October 28th from http://campaignforcanadians.ca/stem-cells-save-lives/