Birmingham hospital to open umbilical cord donor centre

Birmingham Women's Hospital
Image caption The Anthony Nolan charity has already recruited staff for the new unit

An umbilical cord donor centre which will harvest stems cells to treat people with leukaemia is being set up at a Birmingham hospital.

The Anthony Nolan charity will run the centre at Birmingham Women's Hospital.

The charity said it had already recruited a supervising midwife for the centre and that the collectors would be in place within a month.

The centre, the first of its kind in the West Midlands, is expected to open in September.

Guy Parkes, from the Anthony Nolan charity, said a collection unit at a hospital cost more than £200,000 a year to run.

He said: "Instead of being incinerated, which is what usually happens, the cord is passed to one of our collectors who extracts the blood and that is sent to our centre in Nottingham where the stem cells are extracted."

'Good news'

The harvested stem cells have to be frozen to minus 180C for storage.

One in every 100 umbilical cords saved will be used to transplant stem cells, according to Mr Parkes.

A Worcestershire mother is raising money for the centre, after her son, who has leukaemia, was treated with stem cells from the US.

Fiona Harris from Kidderminster said: "When we heard that thousands [of cords] were being discarded every day and just chucked in the bin in this county we thought that we wanted to do something about this."

She said treatment using stem cells was much simpler than a bone marrow transplant from a donor.

The stem cells were injected directly into her son Charlie's bloodstream.

"We've had good news - we've been told the cord blood had now taken 100%, so his body has fully accepted it," she said.

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