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Upstate opens umbilical cord blood bank in Syracuse to process stem cells

Tom Magnarelli
State Sen. John DeFrancisco (left) at the Upstate Cord Blood Bank Thursday.

Upstate Medical University has opened its cord blood bank, only the second facility of its kind in the state. Blood from umbilical cords is processed for stem cells, which can treat cancers and other diseases. The bank is open for public and private use.

Nicole Moore is the first mother to donate her son Jackson’s umbilical cord blood to the Upstate Cord Blood Bank.

“It was really a simple, pain-free experience that we hope will be able to help somebody in the future," Moore said. "And it’s pretty neat, we are proud that our first act as a family was being able to give back.”

Geralyn Saya, an earlier supporter of the cord blood bank, said when cancer returned to her son Jared, the doctor told them they could give Jared a cord blood transplant in New York City.

“Without hope the human heart would die," Saya said. "And we were given that piece of hope. Okay, we’ll try it, it’s all we got. So, because of some woman, who wanted to donate her cord blood, otherwise known as waste to her, my son is here today.”

State Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) said it took years to secure the funding and state approvals to open the building. In addition to the public bank a family can store their child’s cord blood privately for a fee.

“The income from that will help in part to try and keep this bank going, so the public has their component, which is the most important,” DeFrancisco said.

Upstate President Dr. Danielle Laraque-Arena said Upstate is reaching out to other hospitals.

“There are agreements that need to happen between the Cord Blood and the hospitals, St. Joe’s, Crouse and also extending outside of the Syracuse area," Laraque-Arena said. "So that’s what we’re working on.”

She said the designation as a public cord blood bank means anyone can donate umbilical cord blood without charge and the donated cord blood is available to anyone who needs it.

"We have the ability to save lives through transplantation and further fueled by biomedical research that may move us closer to finding breakthrough solutions for dozens of diseases," Laraque-Arena said.

The $15 million facility can store more than 14,000 units of cord blood in its cryogenic containers.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.