01/09/2014 01:31 EST | Updated 03/11/2014 05:59 EDT

Vancouver Cord Blood Bank To Open At BC Women's Hospital

VANCOUVER - Women who give birth at BC Women's Hospital will soon be able to donate their baby's umbilical cord blood to be banked for potentially life-saving treatments for people across Canada.

The facility joins an Ottawa hospital that collects cord blood as part of a national program in partnership with Canadian Blood Services.

Umbilical cords are typically discarded but are a rich source of stem cells, which can be transplanted to treat diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma.

Hospitals in Brampton, Ont., and Edmonton are also new collection sites for umbilical cords donated by healthy women 18 years or older.

Dr. Graham Sher, chief executive officer at Canadian Blood Services, says the National Public Cord Blood Bank will improve the agency's ability to find matches for people through its stem cell network.

He says the program will provide a better chance for a match for patients from diverse backgrounds, including African-Canadians, aboriginals and those who are multi-ethnic.

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