Statewide Cord Blood Bank Celebrates Grand Opening at UAMS

By David Robinson

After a rare tumor equivalent to the size of her eyeball was found in Amelia Odle’s eye socket, she was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), and the family was told there was a 50 percent chance it could be treated. After achieving remission with several courses of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, doctors decided the next course of action should be a cord blood transplant using cord blood cells harvested after the birth of healthy children.

The cord blood came from a national cord blood network, to which the bank at UAMS will soon be linked. Amelia’s 2008 procedure in San Antonio was a success, and her cancer has been in remission ever since.

With the opening of the Cord Blood Bank of Arkansas at UAMS, Arkansas is on the front edge of making miraculous stories like the Odle family’s more commonplace.

“We feel very strongly about this cause and what UAMS is doing to make this available to other families in the same position as we were,” Brian Odle said. “This is science and research and execution in its greatest and most practical form.”

Michele Fox, M.D., director of cell therapy and transfusion medicine at UAMS and medical director of the Cord Blood Bank, has led an effort to make Arkansas the first statewide-coverage cord blood bank in the nation to open with a mandate for public, private and research banking.

Cord blood cells that are harvested after the birth of healthy children have the potential to drastically change the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans through their use in bone marrow transplants and have tremendous promise for regenerating diseased or injured tissues. With the opening of the cord blood bank, Arkansans in all corners of the state now have the opportunity to donate these blood cells for their family’s use, public use or research. The statewide cord blood banking network aids in collecting, processing and storing donations. UAMS has one of the largest adult blood cell transplant centers in the country and is the state’s central cord blood bank and storage site.

Other speakers at today’s opening included Peter Emanuel, M.D., director of the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute; Sharon Bale, a member of another family helped by the use of cord blood; Jennifer Maune, executive director of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation; Rep. Jon Woods of Springdale and Art Horne, executive director of development at UAMS.

“With further research and the operation of the efficient national cord blood banking system, more than 100 million Americans and 2 billion people worldwide could potentially be treated or cured of diseases,” Fox said. “The next critical step is to let Arkansans know how easy it is to make a difference by donating cord blood following the birth of a healthy child.”

Before giving birth, donors request an easy-to-follow kit from the Cord Blood Bank of Arkansas to give their doctor at the time of birth. From there the donated cells are delivered to UAMS for storage. The bank accepts cord blood for public use, private use or research.

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Related Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a 540,000-square-foot hospital; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. It is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 2,836 students and 761 medical residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. Visit or