Umbilical cord blood: Making Every Drop Count

Each year, about 4,400 Quebecers donate their umbilical cord blood.

Donating umbilical cord blood is not something most women consider when they give birth—less than 10 per cent of mothers actually enroll in the Héma-Québec Public Cord Blood Bank—but it is a gesture that can save lives. Umbilical cord blood is rich in stem cells, which can be used as a treatment for cancer patients with leukemia or lymphoma.

Each year, about 4,400 Quebecers donate their umbilical cord blood, but less than two in five qualify for the Public Cord Blood Bank, operated by Héma-Québec, because the amount harvested is too small. “The result was that many cords were discarded as biomedical waste,” says Linda Peltier, Executive Director of the Clinical Research Cord Blood Bank at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). “It was such a shame to see this precious blood lost.”

Thanks to a new transplant method developed at the MUHC in 2007, these ‘lost’ samples can now be used clinically. Many small donations can now be combined to form cord blood pool of sufficient size to save the life of an adult patient. Up to 90 per cent of cord blood samples can now be used using this method.

“This research project is unique and represents a promising field of regenerative medicine,” says Dr. Pierre Laneuville, Medical Director of the Laboratory of Clinical Research Cord Blood Bank. “Our goal is to make the most efficient use of donated cord blood units and to provide the most rapid treatment possible to patients with serious illnesses.”

To donate, or for more information

T : 514-934-1934, poste : 31978 e : crcbb [at] muhc [dot] mcgill [dot] ca