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Official: Cord Blood Supplies Safe

Health authorities in Shanghai said yesterday that investigations have found no contamination at the city's umbilical cord blood bank and gave the assurance that supplies remain safe for use.

Earlier this month, media reported that the umbilical cord blood bank allegedly conducted a series of illegal operations and cheated its customers for profit.

"The umbilical cord blood supplies in the city's blood bank were not contaminated and can be used safely," the Shanghai health bureau said in a report.

Umbilical cord blood can be used as a source of stem cells for the treatment of blood diseases and genetic disorders.

Wang Tong, spokesman for the bureau, said the agency, together with other health departments, has been carrying out close supervision and inspection of the cord blood supplies.

"The whole process of collection, transportation, preparation, testing and refrigeration is under strict control," he said.

Umbilical cord blood is being increasingly used as an alternative source of stem cells to treat people suffering from malignant and non-malignant diseases.

Besides a lower chance of viral infection, umbilical cord blood transplants also have fewer restrictions than those posed by bone marrow transplants.

Chen Qi, a 29-year-old father who intends to save the cord blood of his first child for future purposes, said: "We want to keep it as a form of life insurance.

"Cord blood provides a ray of hope for patients and can save our child's life if he meets with a medical crisis one day," he said.

Chen is not alone when it comes to parents considering such a provision for their children.

A baby boom is reportedly set to hit the country as many couples want babies to be born at around the same time as the Beijing Olympics and demand to store cord blood is expected to increase.

Umbilical cord blood is stored by both public and private banks. Public banks store it for the public benefit, while private ones do so for the exclusive use of the donors and their relatives.

By the end of last year, the Shanghai Cord Blood Bank had received more than 3,000 donated cord blood units and more than 5,000 units for private use.

(China Daily January 16, 2008)

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