Arizona to host eighth Cord Blood Conference


Hannah Saunders


For the past seven years, the Arizona Department of Health Services (AzDHS) has sponsored the annual Arizona Cord Blood Conference, and this year’s is right around the corner. Each day, individuals die from one of 80 diseases due to the lack of bone marrow or cord blood match, according to the department.

The Arizona Public Cord Blood Program was created to reduce barriers of donating cord blood in order to grow and diversify the supply for the treatment of disease, and research. The program’s goal is to achieve greater availability of cord blood.


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Umbilical cord blood is blood that remains in the blood vessels of the placenta and the umbilical cord, and is collected after a baby is born, and after the cord has been clamped and cut. Blood-forming stem cells, or hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPCs), are found in cord blood, as well as bone marrow and peripheral blood. HPCs are regularly used to treat disorders of the blood and immune systems, according to the FDA. 

To match patients with cord blood transplant donors, human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing is used. HLAs are proteins that are in most cells of the body, and the immune system uses HLAs as markers for which cells belong in the body and which do not. HLA markers may reduce the risk of a patient’s immune cells attacking donor cells if HLA typing shows a close match. 

The event will be hosted by Arizona State University at the Scottsdale Innovation Center on April 13th from 9 am to 4:30 pm. The conference will host speakers from across the globe, including Dr. Megan Finch-Edmondson, PhD, who is a Senior Stem Cell Research Fellow at the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Institute of the University of Sydney, Australia. 

Finch-Edmonson is currently working to establish numerous cell therapy clinical trials for the prevention and treatment of cerebral palsy, and is an emerging leader in stem cell research. 

Dr. Amanda Olson, MD, completed a hematology and oncology fellowship in 2013 at the New York Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where she focused on optimizing umbilical cord blood transplantation and infectious complications resulting from hematopoietic stem cell transplants.

Dr. Olson will also be speaking at the conference and currently oversees clinical research related to cord blood transplantation, mesenchymal stem cell expansion and manipulation, and cellular therapy. 

The speakers, which include leaders in cord blood research and transplantation, will share information on the newest developments in the field of cord blood stem cell transplantation. In addition, two cord blood transplant survivors will share their experiences in receiving the care and what their lives have been like post-transplant. 

A 40-year-old high school teacher from Los Fresnos, Texas, Azucena Garcia, received a cord blood transplant after being diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Stage 3A in September 2010. By October 2012, she was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome, and received treatment and a cord blood transplant in July 2013. 

Lyla Rose Edgington was diagnosed with a rare and progressive genetic disorder known as MPS Type 1, or Hurler Syndrome, at seven months of age. About two years after her diagnosis, Edgington received a cord blood match and a successful stem cell transplant. At the conference, her parents—Steve and Helen—will share their experiences with hopes of creating awareness about public cord blood donation. 

The program’s partners include Save the Cord Foundation, Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Chandler Regional Medical Center, Tucson Medical Center, Valleywise Health, and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cord Blood Blank.

Within AzDHS is the Arizona Biomedical Research Centre, which currently funds four collection hospitals, Save the Cord Foundation, and the cord blood bank.