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March 31, 2003 - The National Cord Blood Program (NCBP) of New York Blood Center announced today that it had just collected its 20,000th donation of cord blood. This represents a major milestone for this full-service testing, collection, distribution and storage Program that was begun in February, 1993. Cord blood provides an alternative to stem cells obtained through bone marrow transplantation. Stem cells for cord blood, unlike those from bone marrow transplants, can be banked prior to use. The year the program was launched, the New York Blood Center provided the graft for the world's first transplant of cord blood to an unrelated recipient. Since that time and with the addition of the 20,000th unit, nearly 1,350 transplants have been performed using cord blood from the Blood Center's National Cord Blood Program. The results of the first 562 recipients of unrelated cord blood transplants were published in a groundbreaking article that appeared in the November 26, 1998 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The NCBP currently operates collection facilities at The Brooklyn Hospital Center, North Shore- Long Island Jewish Health Systems, New York Presbyterian Hospital Cornell Weill Medical Center, and Inova Hospital in Fairfax, VA. Two new collection sites, opening shortly, with support from a recent most generous gift of $5 million from the Starr Foundation, are Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY and University Hospitals in Cleveland, OH.

As Dr. Pablo Rubinstein, head of NCBP emphasizes, "the mother is the heroine. She is the one who provides consent to donate cord blood so that a stranger suffering from a blood disorder such as leukemia, may enjoy a healthy and renewed life. Today we are happy to acknowledge the generosity of all the mothers who have donated to the Program".

The National Cord Blood Program offers patients suffering from potentially fatal diseases, new hope. Cord blood is as ethnically diverse as the pool of newborns. The Program broadens this donor pool and increases the chance that a genetically compatible match will be found. Cord blood has some advantages over bone marrow as a source of blood generating stem cells: The incidence of graft vs. host disease, in which the immune cells of the donated stem cells attack the patient is markedly lower; stem cells from cord blood can be transplanted to unrelated recipients who are not perfectly matched; such stem cells are easier to harvest than bone marrow and are more consistently free of common infections.

Since its inception, the NCBP has collaborated with transplant physicians at 90 clinical centers in the U.S. and 74 transplant centers in 26 other countries to provide these stem cells. To date, more than 60 blood-disorder related diseases have been treated with cord blood. A medical seminar will be held in October 2003 to commemorate the tenth year anniversary of the Program.

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Mitch Santana and his brother, Brad, and parents, Minnie and Thomas with Drs. Rubinstein and Stevens