Research bank makes good use of umbilical cords

After the delivery of a newborn, snipping the umbilical cord and then discarding the cord and placenta is the typical procedure. However, some new mothers at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics are accepting the invitation to donate their baby's umbilical cord blood to a new UI research bank that aims to advance our understanding of human diseases.

The procedure in no way affects the delivery or health of the baby, and the donation provides important cells only for research studies, not for stem cell transplants into other patients or for therapeutic cloning. The new research endeavor -- the UI Hematopoietic Stem Cell Bank -- is funded by the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust and housed in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

An umbilical cord contains hematopoietic (blood) stem cells -- unspecialized cells that can develop into different blood cell types and even other cells in the body, such as muscle cells or nerves. The cord blood stem cells have potential for advancing gene therapy for conditions such as Parkinson's disease and muscular dystrophy.

This versatility makes the cells very useful for research studies and can promote scientific and medical advances, said Frederick Goldman, M.D., UI associate professor of pediatrics and director of the new hematopoietic stem cell bank.

"Cord blood stem cells are more committed than embryonic stem cells, but they still have the ability to differentiate into a wide variety of tissue types," Goldman said.

Restrictions placed on embryonic stems cells by the federal government and some state governments often make it difficult to use these cells in scientific investigations. However, cord blood stem cells are not subject to these same restrictions.

The umbilical cord is rich in hematopoietic stem cells, which can produce red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Sue O'Dorisio, M.D., Ph.D., UI Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics and an inves

Contact: Becky Soglin
University of Iowa

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