FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Army News Service, Sept. 2, 2009) -- Womack Army Medical Center officials announced their cord blood donation program Aug. 31, and are now the seventh collection site for the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank at Duke University Medical Center.

Cord blood is blood found in the placenta or umbilical cord following a birth. Cord blood contains stem cells that can be used in the treatment of a range of diseases, including leukemia and lymphoma. Research is also being done to show how cord blood can be used in the treatment of traumatic brain injury.

Neither the newborn child nor the mother is hurt by harvesting a newborn's cord blood, according to medical experts.

"Womack is one of the first large-scale collaborations to collect cord blood in a Department of Defense hospital," said Col. Paul Whitecar, a doctor and chief of maternal fetal medicine at WAMC.

Donating cord blood is a harmless and painless way for healthy women to provide stem cells and it is taken from the umbilical cord and placenta after a mother delivers her baby, Whitecar added.

Cord blood collections started at WAMC Aug. 3, with 35 collections as of Aug. 28, and the program has been well-received since its inception, Whitecar said.

"The impact from everyone involved has been overwhelmingly positive and overwhelmingly supportive," he said.

Twenty years ago, however, the thought of using umbilical cord blood to treat diseases such as leukemia and sickle-cell anemia was a crazy idea in the eyes of most doctors, said Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, director of the Carolina's Cord Blood Bank at Duke University Medical Center.

But through the vision of some pioneering medical practitioners and patients willing to take a risk, there have been more than 150,000 unrelated-donor cord blood transplants performed around the world, with more than 100 banks of which 20 are in the United States, Kurtzberg said.

"With Womack joining the Carolina's Cord Blood Bank, we hope to help the national program reach its goal of 300,000 donors over the next five years," Kurtzberg said.

Currently, there are about 100,000 cord blood donors that are high-quality units listed on the national Marrow Donor Program's "Be the Match" Registry, she added.

WAMC collects cord blood 12 hours-a-day, but as the program expands, the collection process will go to a 24-hour operation.

There is no cost to donors and donation is voluntary and confidential.

(Staff Sgt. Jeremy D. Crisp writes for the XVIII Airborne Corps Public Affairs Office)