Mothers giving birth at NewYork-Presbyterian and Brooklyn Hospital donate record number of life-saving umbilical cord bloods

May 13, 2003

New York, NY

Mothers giving birth at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell Medical Center and The Brooklyn Hospital Center both members of the NewYork-Presbyterian Healthcare System voluntarily donated a record number of life-saving umbilical cord bloods to New York Blood Center's National Cord Blood Program last year, representing 41 percent of the Program's one-year cord blood donations. The Program, the largest public cord blood bank in the world, provides half of all unrelated cord bloods for transplant. Patients worldwide have benefited from cord blood treatments for diseases such as late-stage leukemia, and scientists use cord blood to research promising new treatments. In effect, many mothers are now giving their gift of life twice.

In 2002, NewYork Weill Cornell Medical Center and The Brooklyn Hospital Center donated 1,779 cord bloods to The National Cord Blood Program, with 929 from NewYork Weill Cornell and the remaining 850 from The Brooklyn Hospital Center. Additionally, the largest single-month cord blood donation in the history of New York Blood Center (238 cord bloods) was made by NewYork Weill Cornell and The Brooklyn Hospital Center last October. And an impressive 98 percent of mothers giving birth at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell Medical Center have chosen to donate their cord bloods.

These cord bloods have been used in life-saving transplant operations worldwide, from NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City to hospitals as far afield as Alabama and Brazil. Hospitals are also using cord bloods in research that may one day treat such diseases as diabetes and heart disease.

Cord blood, a source of younger stem cells, is commonly used as an alternative to bone marrow transplants. According to The Journal of the American Medical Association, each year as many as 15,000 Americans who need bone marrow transplants are unable to find suitable donors. Unlike bone marrow, cord blood transplants do not require as strict a genetic match, and cord blood is available very quickly.

Dr. Michael Schuster, Professor of Clinical Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and Director of the Bone Marrow and Blood Stem Cell Transplant Program at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell Medical Center, initiated the cord blood program at Weill Cornell along with Dr. Joan Kent, Clinical Instructor of Medicine and Assistant Attending Physician at NewYork Weill Cornell.

Expectant mothers now have the chance to give life twice, said Dr. Kent. In the past, umbilical cord blood was not used. We now know that this blood is far too valuable to go to waste. A mother can donate her cord blood to the public cord blood bank, or save it for the rare case that a family member may benefit from its use. Similar to a regular blood bank, cord blood is frozen and kept for future use.

Dr. Schuster has performed numerous life-saving cord blood transplants. Commonly, patients with late-stage leukemia will search in vain for six months or more for bone marrow. Cord blood can be available within 24 hours. After a cord blood transplant and recovery, complete remission is standard.

Dr. Schuster is also one of several NewYork-Presbyterian physician-scientists currently researching future treatments that use cord blood, such as gene therapy and cell regeneration. These experimental therapies will potentially benefit treatment of a wide variety of diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injury, and stroke.

New York Blood Center

The New York Blood Center launched The National Cord Blood Program in 1993 through a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Currently the Center collects cord blood from three New York City-area hospitals, as well as from a hospital in Virginia. The Center's cord blood program is underwritten, in part, through generous donations. New York Blood Center is the chief supplier of blood and its byproducts to the metropolitan New York region.

NewYork-Presbyterian has been instrumental in collecting blood for the New York Blood Center. A blood drive ending last September, for instance, yielded 1,076 pints the most ever collected by any organization in the city. That blood drive was championed and organized by Dr. Michael Berman, Executive Vice President and Hospital Director of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. On February 24, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital was recognized for its far-reaching efforts by America's Blood Centers in Washington, D.C.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital & Healthcare System

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital is a 2,369-bed academic medical center created from the merger between The New York Hospital and The Presbyterian Hospital. It provides state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory, and preventive care in all areas of medicine at five major centers: NewYork Weill Cornell Medical Center, Columbia University Medical Center, Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian, The Allen Pavilion, and the Westchester Division. One of the largest and most comprehensive health-care institutions in the world, the Hospital is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education, and community service. The NewYork-Presbyterian Healthcare System which includes acute-care and community hospitals, long-term care facilities, ambulatory sites, and specialty institutions ensures high-quality, cost-effective, and conveniently accessible care to communities throughout the tri-state metropolitan region. The System serves one in four patients in the New York Metropolitan area. The Hospital has academic affiliations with two of the country's leading medical colleges: Joan and Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University and Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons.

The Brooklyn Hospital Center

The Brooklyn Hospital Center, a 463-bed teaching hospital with 753 physicians, is a member of the NewYork-Presbyterian Healthcare System and affiliated with Weill Medical College of Cornell University. The Hospital Center's primary care and school health programs extend throughout the borough. Its recently opened Women's Health Center offers a full array of women's health services, including a Breast Imaging Center.