PITTSBURGH, October 8, 2007 As part of its continuing commitment to women's and infants health in the region, Magee-Womens Hospital of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) today announced the institution of the Dan Berger Cord Blood Program to give parents an opportunity to preserve umbilical cord blood for possible future health care needs or donation to scientific research.
For many years, umbilical cords and placental tissue collected after childbirth were and still are routinely discarded as medical waste. Like bone marrow, however, umbilical cord blood is rich in stem cells. Stem cells from umbilical cord blood have been used to treat more than 50 diseases, including numerous cancers, anemias, inherited metabolic disorders and immune deficiencies, and account for more than 8,000 transplants worldwide. Now, this cutting-edge approach will be more available to people in the Pittsburgh area.
Established in partnership with the UPMC Health Plan, Highmark Corp., the Institute for Transfusion Medicine (the parent company of Pittsburghs Central Blood Bank), and private banks Cord Blood Registry, CorCell and ViaCord, Magees program is named for the late Dan Berger, a Pittsburgh attorney who underwent a successful stem cell transplant to overcome cancer, but then tragically died of a heart attack in 2006.
This public-private collaborative for cord blood preservation is unique in the nation. It is fitting that Magee take a lead role in bringing such a valuable resource to the Pittsburgh region, said Dennis English, M.D., vice president for medical affairs at Magee and an obstetrician-gynecologist.
Magee President Leslie C. Davis added: Because of Magees unique leadership position, we feel particularly excited that this program starts here. Among women's hospitals, Magee alone has a research facility devoted to women and infants that already runs clinical trials, treats cancer patients and specializes in genetic and neurological conditions.
Cord blood is collected from the umbilical cord immediately after a baby's birth, before the placenta has been delivered. This moment of delivery is the only opportunity to harvest a newborns stem cells. Since blood is taken from the cord only after it has been clamped and cut, there is no risk to the baby. Cord blood also can be collected safely regardless of whether a woman delivers vaginally or by Cesarean section.
Public and private banks nationwide store cord blood. Public banks store cord blood for the benefit of anyone who may need the cells, and usually coordinate matching cord blood to patients through the National Marrow Donor Program. Other banks, such as the Cord Blood Registry, CorCell and ViaCord are for-profit organizations that charge fees to store cord blood for the exclusive use of the donor.
Magees program is distinct in that the hospital offers parents three options from which to choose a public bank, a private one or donation for scientific research to the Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI). A pivotal part of the program will be the recruiting of a highly skilled educator whose job is devoted to helping Magee patients understand the value of preserving their baby's cord blood.
Following strict standards, these specimens donated for research will be available for Magee scientists to use to seek treatments for and ways to prevent diseases affecting women and infants everywhere, said W. Allen Hogge, M.D., chair of the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and interim director of MWRI.
The Berger family feels privileged to be involved in such a model program, said Carol Berger, widow of Dan Berger.
When Danny was ill with lymphoma and leukemia, stem cells offered him a chance, said Mrs. Berger. None of our five sons was a match, but we were fortunate to find a living, matching, unrelated donor. Not everyone is so lucky. The process was long and arduous but it succeeded. We were making plans to return to our everyday lives last July when Dans heart gave out.
We are deeply indebted to the Berger family, along with our other partners, for their support and enthusiasm in helping us to open this exciting program, said Arthur M. Scully III, vice president of the Magee-Womens Research Institute & Foundation, the fund-raising arm for Magee and MWRI.
Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC is one of only a handful of not-for-profit hospitals in the United States dedicated to the care of women and infants. Magee serves as the teaching facility for obstetrics, gynecology, gynecological oncology and neonatology for students enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh Schools of Medicine and Nursing, and for allied health professions. Members of Magee's medical staff hold academic appointments at the University of Pittsburgh and are actively involved in education and research, as well as patient care.