Leicester hospitals open cord blood centre
A blood bank that stores stem cells from umbilical cords has opened in Leicester.
A new Anthony Nolan cord blood collection centre is now in use at Leicester's Royal Infirmary and General hospitals.
The bank will make it easier to find matches for bone marrow transplants.
Umbilical cord blood is also valuable for researchers developing pioneering regenerative medicine for liver, heart, kidney and neurological conditions.
Samples can be collected while the placenta is still inside the mother or after it has been delivered.
The umbilical cord is clamped and a tube inserted into it to drain away the blood and the sample is then put into cold storage and can be saved for years.
Samantha Norman, 25, from Anstey, was one of the first mothers to donate her baby's umbilical cord after the birth of daughter.
She said: "I didn't know about the benefits of cord blood until my midwife explained how I could help save someone else's life.
"I think it's amazing that you can do this, after all it's not as if you would keep the umbilical cord anyway."
Henny Braund, chief executive of the Anthony Nolan charity, said: "If we could collect 50,000 cords over the next five years then the UK would be able to meet around 80% of our transplant requests.
"Put simply, we'd be able to save many more lives."
Stem cells can be used to create many different types of tissue and, in theory, could be used to repair and replace damaged organs as well as treating diseases ranging from Alzheimer's to cancer.