Since the first cord blood transfusion was performed in 1988, doctors have performed more than 40,000 cord blood transplants worldwide to treat more than 80 life-threatening illnesses, including leukemia, lymphoma, blood cancers and sickle cell disease. Despite the need, about 96 percent of cord blood is discarded from the nearly four million births in the United States each year, according to data from the Save the Cord Foundation.
With less than 1 percent of the American Indian population donating umbilical cord blood to public cord blood banks, researchers at the Arizona Biomedical Research Centre (ABRC) were interested in discovering why donations were low.
“Cord blood stem cell donation is important for the treatment of several blood disorders and cancers, but many ethnic groups are underrepresented in public cord banks because they often don’t have access to public cord blood banks,” said Kristan Elwell, an assistant research professor at Center for Health Equity Health Research (CHER) and the Department of Health Sciences at Northern Arizona University. “Most people are more aware of the private banks, but can’t afford them.”
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