Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- What some are calling a life-saving facility will soon be built in Central New York. Upstate Medical University is breaking ground on a public cord blood bank at its Community General campus.
At four years old, Luca Vassallo has already lived through a lot. He was diagnosed with leukemia at two months old and went through chemotherapy and radiation, but it was a stem cell transplant that helped cure him of cancer.
“Because an anonymous family donated their baby's umbilical cord instead of throwing it out, Luca was given a second shot at life, and has been cancer free for almost four years,” said his father Greg Vassallo.
The Vassallo’s traveled to New York City for treatment, but soon that life-saving care will be available in Central New York at Upstate’s $15-million cord blood bank. The project, which will also create jobs locally, will be paid for through a grant secured by Senator DeFrancisco. Construction will start soon and the center is scheduled to open by the end of 2014.
“It really puts us on the map for this cutting edge medicine, medicine is shifting from being reactive to proactive,” said Robert Corona with Upstate Medical University.
The stem cells are not only critical for patients in need, but for research too. About a dozen Upstate researchers are already doing work with stem cells.
Right now, there are only 27 public banks in the country, this will be the second in NY state. Unlike private cord blood centers, there is no cost to donate to a public bank and donated cord blood is available to anyone that needs it.
The facility is aiming to store thousands of cord blood donations, which is taken from the umbilical cord. The umbilical cord is usually just thrown out, but that blood is rich in stem cells and has been proven to treat dozens of diseases, including cancer and sickle cell anemia.
Upstate says that after the mother delivers her baby, the umbilical cord is cut and clamped. Then a medical provider inserts a syringe into the vein which is still attached to the placenta. The process only takes about 15 minutes, and yields three to five ounces of cord blood which contains the hematopoietic stem cells.
For the Saya family from Syracuse, a stem cell transplant turned their son Jared into a survivor.
“Somebody saved my son’s life that I don’t know and I wish I could thank her. I can’t, so I want to thank every mother out there who will give their babies umbilical cord because you’re going to save somebody’s life,” said Geralyn Saya.
Cord blood stem cells are different than embryonic stem cells, which have been the center of controversy in years past.
It’s free for parents to donate their babies cord blood cells. For more information, CLICK HERE