Seven-year-old child in Europe to benefit from cord blood donated at UMass Memorial  

WORCESTER, Mass.—A unit of umbilical cord blood donated through UMass Memorial Medical Center has been identified as a potentially life-saving gift for a youngster in Europe who is suffering from myelodysplastic syndrome, a serious blood disorder that can progress to an aggressive form of leukemia.

Mary Herlihy, MD, UMass Memorial chief of general obstetrics and gynecology and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, was notified last week that a unit of cord blood collected through the program she spearheaded has been shipped to a European hospital that is treating a seven-year-old child. No other information has been released about the sick child and, because cord blood donations are de-identified, Dr. Herlihy does not know which of her donors provided the matching unit. 

“While we can’t identify which of our babies gave this particular unit, we think that every mother and baby who donated through our program should take special pride in helping to give such an important gift to a sick child,” said Dr. Herlihy.  “This is a tremendous success. We used to discard cord blood but now, because of our program, this child will have a chance at a cure.”

Umbilical cord blood is rich in stem cells, which are immunologically immature and result in fewer complications to recipient patients when used for treatments which bone marrow stem cells have traditionally been used for, such as acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). Cord blood can be used to treat more than 70 diseases.

UMass Memorial collaborated with Cryobanks International, Inc. (CII), a pioneer in the field of cord blood processing and storage, to establish the Cord Blood Donation Program in October 2006 and has collected more than 1,000 units since then. UMass Memorial is the only hospital in New England offering a cord blood donation program.

“Donating cord blood is still an option that many mothers are not aware of, yet it is so easy and simple, we’re aiming to make it a common practice.” Dr. Herlihy added, “There’s a very broad range of illnesses and diseases that umbilical cord blood has been used to treat. What a great story for a mother to be able to share with her child later on in life—a story of giving.”

“We are so excited that this day has arrived for the team at UMass Memorial and the area families who have donated this precious source of stem cells for use around the world,” commented Robert Gravely, chief operating officer at Cryobanks. “It takes a lot of coordinated effort and science to make these units readily available. But most importantly, without Dr. Herlihy leading the charge, area doctors who educate and collect, and the families themselves who choose to donate, none of this would happen. We congratulate them all.”

Cord blood donation, which has been in practice since the early 1990s, is a simple, risk-free and painless procedure for both mother and child. Cryobanks International provides UMass Memorial with collection kits, and a local coordinator visits the hospital daily to manage the pick up and delivery of units.  Mothers-to-be who are interested in donating their cord blood should ideally enroll no later than the 34th week of their pregnancy. They can arrange for donation through their physician, through the Women’s Center at UMass Memorial, or with the Cryobanks International local Worcester donor coordinator at 508-799-8864. The local Worcester office is located at 50 Elm Street near downtown. In the event the mother is unable to pre-register, there is an onsite registration process available at the hospital. Patients can also find more information on the Cryobanks International web site

About UMass Memorial Health Care:
UMass Memorial Health Care is Central Massachusetts’ largest not-for-profit health care delivery system, covering the complete health care continuum with UMass Memorial Medical Center, its academic medical center, member and affiliated community hospitals, freestanding primary care practices, ambulatory outpatient clinics, a long-term care facility, home health agencies, hospice programs, a rehabilitation group and mental heath services. UMass Memorial is the clinical partner of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.  Visit for additional information.

About Cryobanks:
Cryobanks International, Inc., located in Altamonte Springs, FL is a leader in the collection, processing, and banking of stem cells derived from the umbilical cord.  The stem cell rich units of cord blood (CB) are processed and stored using the company’s proprietary processing methods and are stored for use in unrelated transplants.  Cryobanks established the first and only nationwide cord blood public donation bank.  The company also provides personal storage programs.  In recent years, cord blood transplants (CBT’s) have become widely recognized as a safe and effective alternative to traditional bone marrow transplants (BMT).  Cryobanks International has processed over 16,000 cord blood units in its 13 years of operation. The company is one of just eighteen National Marrow Donor Program Network Cord Blood banks. Fully AABB accredited, FDA registered and cGMP/cGTP compliant, Cryobanks operates its own processing and storage facility. The company also provides consulting and management services for those interested in developing their own cord blood banking operations. For more information about Cryobanks International call 1-800-869-8608 or visit the website at