First public cord blood bank set up here
New mums will be asked to donate umbilical
ANOTHER lifeline will soon be provided for those with blood
diseases, with the opening of Singapore's first public cord
|Cord blood samples will be kept in nitrogen
tanks similar to those that store blood samples such as
this one at Singapore General Hospital. The -150 deg C
temperature will keep the blood frozen until it is
thawed out for use in transplants. Experts believe cord
blood can be stored cryogenically for 20 years. --
The bank will ask new mothers - beginning with those from
KK Women's and Children's Hospital, where 40 per cent of
births here take place - to donate their babies' umbilical
The bank will then process, freeze and store the samples,
to build a registry of at least 10,000
This will improve dramatically the chances that a patient
who needs a cord blood transplant can find a suitable
Currently, about 70 per cent cannot find donors, but a
bigger pool will mean eight in 10 patients will be able to
find a match.
Currently, if a patient cannot find a match among family
members, he has to hope for one from an unrelated donor -
unlikely because most established public cord blood banks are
in the United States and Europe, where donors are
This causes genetic factors to come into play, making
chances of a match less likely.
There are two private cord blood banks here, but they store
samples from donors who want a safeguard in case they need it
in future, and samples are for use only by donors or family
Donors are charged fees for extraction, tests and storage,
and this can work out to several thousand
The public cord blood bank will open its samples to anyone
in need, including international patients. In return,
Singapore will be able to tap into a global network of public
cord blood banks.
Yesterday, Dr Fidah Alsagoff, executive director of the
Singapore Cord Blood Bank - the first of its kind in the
region - gave an insight into how it will
Doctors will ask mothers to donate after delivery, and the
bank will undertake to pay for all tests and storage. There is
no risk to either mother or child. If a mother refuses, the
umbilical cord, from which the blood is drawn, will be
discarded as usual.
The only cost to the donor is that the family has no claim
to the blood anymore. If the child needs cord blood later
because he or she has developed a disease, there is no
guarantee they will get the same sample back because it may
have already been given out.
However, the child will be given priority if a match can be
found, and the family will not have to pay the $26,000 which
the bank plans to charge for a unit of cord blood for
Money collected from those requiring transplants will help
recover the cost of storing and processing the blood. The
public bank will be run as an independent, non-profit entity,
said Dr Alsagoff.
The bank will set up its physical facilities and start
freeze-storing cord blood by the last quarter of this
Although samples will initially be collected only from
those at KK Women's and Children's Hospital, all public
hospitals will be roped in eventually.
The two private cord blood banks here, StemCord and
CordLife, welcomed the formation of the public
Mr Steven Fang, CordLife CEO, said it will increase the
chances of securing a suitable donor match for
Dr Ang Peng Tiam, CEO of StemCord, echoed this and said the
motivation for a private bank was very
'It's like a form of insurance for your child, or his
sibling. If you need it, you know it's there. In a public
bank, it's open to all in need.'
Cord blood is a rich source of what doctors call
haematopoietic stem cells, or 'blank' immature cells that can
become all sorts of blood cells: red, white or
These stem cells can regrow blood cells and replace
diseased ones in patients who suffer from leukaemia or severe
anaemia, for example.
Each year, there are 200 new cases of leukaemia here. More
than half of these patients can benefit from such treatment.