From the blood of babes

Earlier this month, the Yukon Medical Association passed a motion calling for the establishment of a national cord-blood bank.

Earlier this month, the Yukon Medical Association passed a motion calling for the establishment of a national cord-blood bank.

What, you might ask, is cord blood?

Here are the gory details:

Cord blood is the blood that remains in the placenta and umbilical cord after childbirth.

Removing the cord blood is not at all harmful to the baby.

Actually, cord blood is normally thrown away as medical waste, but if collected, the blood could be used to save someone’s life.

This unique blood contains stem cells, which can be used to treat leukemia, some cancers and certain immune diseases.

In the future, medical researchers hope to use stem cells to treat other ailments such as Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis.

And cord blood specifically can also be used to treat hematopoietic and genetic disorders.

Yukon doctors aren’t the only ones that have thought about the benefits of saving this stuff.

Canadian Blood Services is currently in the process of setting up a national cord-blood collection program through its OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network.

Normally, if a patient is diagnosed with a disorder that can be treated with stem cells, doctors first look to family members to find a matching donor.

“This only works about 30 per cent of the time,” said Sue Smith, executive director of OneMatch.

“The rest of the time they come to us”

These are not the controversial embryonic stem cells; the blood is contained after a child is born, said Smith.

Canada is one of the few industrialized nations that does not have a cord-blood bank.

But we already make use of it, importing cord blood from the international market.

Canada’s OneMatch is part of a worldwide network of bone marrow donors that includes more than 13.5 million potential stem cell donors.

But even with this many donors, a perfect match is found only about half of the time.

Finding a match has a lot to do with ethnicity and there’s not much diversity in those stem cell banks.

In Canada, 82 per cent of potential stem cell donors are Caucasian, which definitely doesn’t reflect the face of Canada, said Smith.

Collecting cord blood from all newborn Canadians may be a way to rectify this disparity.

And cord blood provides younger and more immature stem cells, which are less finicky and more easily matched.

As with any organ transplant, doctors often have to worry about the body rejecting the bone marrow transplants (known as graft-versus-host disease).

That immature cord blood is a lot less likely to be rejected by the body.

It can even be mixed.

Because very little blood is collected from the umbilical cord (doctors are normally able to collect about 75 ml of the stuff), adult patients are sometimes given a double-dose from two separate infant donors.

A couple of years ago, the Canadian Medical Officer of Health asked Canadian Blood Services to look into creating a national cord blood bank.

After years of consultation and planning, the organization is now working with all 12 jurisdictions to get approval and funding.

Smith was unable to say when the program might be launched.

But once Canada gets a cord-blood program, Yukon infants are unlikely to contribute.

Just like regular blood donation, it may be too costly to have collection in every hospital and jurisdiction.

This might mean no donation for the sparsely populated North.

“But our core principal is that no matter where you live in Canada you will have access,” said Smith.

Contact Chris Oke at chriso@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Jesse Whelen, Blood Ties Four Directions harm reduction councillor, demonstrates how the organization tests for fentanyl in drugs in Whitehorse on May 12, 2020. The Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three drug overdose deaths and one probable overdose death since mid-January. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three overdose deaths caused by “varying levels of cocaine and fentanyl,” coroner says

Heather Jones says overdoses continue to take lives at an “alarming rate”

Wyatt's World for Feb. 24, 2021.
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Approximately 30 Yukoners protest for justice outside the Whitehorse courthouse on Feb. 22, while a preliminary assault hearing takes place inside. The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, based in Watson Lake, put out a call to action over the weekend. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Courthouse rally denounces violence against Indigenous women

The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society put out a call to action

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Start of spring sitting announced

The Yukon legislature is set to resume for the spring sitting on… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Most Read