Virgin increases stem cell availability

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NHS patients suffering from diseases such as leukaemia, sickle-cell anaemia and lymphoma are set to benefit from a ground-breaking Virgin Health Bank initiative, which will see access to potentially life-saving stem cell therapy increased.

The scheme, run in partnership with Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust Foundation, will improve the process of cord blood banking.

Cord blood is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord after a baby has been born and is a rich source of stem cells, which can be used in a range oftherapies.

Virgin Health Bank was established to provide families with a high quality service through which they could store their babys cord blood stem cells and support the NHS by enabling them to donate some of those cells to others in need, explained Richard Branson.

The partnership with Cambridge University Hospitals will further the development and availability of stem cell transplants, and is a great example of what can be achieved through collaboration between businesses and the public sector.

The initiative will help address the problem of availability, which has partly been brought about by the high costs involved in such transplants. The cost of obtaining one stem cell unit for this purpose was estimated at 36,000 in 2010.

New parents delivering babies at Cambridges Rosie Hospital will be given information regarding cord blood banking, allowing them to decide whether they wish to participate in the scheme. Mothers who chose to store their babys stem cells will be able to donate some of them to Virgin Health Bank, who will thenmake them available for transplant on the NHS, increasing the chances of patients on waiting lists finding a match.

Richard Branson has also pledged to reinvest any profits made from Virgin Health Bank to further the development of stem cell therapies.

To find out more, visit Virgin Health Bank.

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