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Stem cell project could save a life each month

A life could be saved every month thanks to a new project to improve NHS stem cell services, it has been claimed.

Stem cell donors and potential recipients will be matched far more quickly than in the past under a partnership between NHS Blood and Transplant and charity Anthony Nolan, which has received a £4m government investment.

The project aims to reduce average donor search times down to two weeks, which is estimated will save on average one life per month.

Anthony Nolan and NHS Blood and Transplant will bring their bone marrow registries together and align their databases to speed up the search for donors. Between them, they already provide access to over 700,000 adult donors in the UK.

Another key feature of the project is a £1.9m contract between the Department of Health and Anthony Nolan.

The charity will become the single contact point for all NHS transplant units looking for a suitably matched adult donor or stem cell unit.

The contract will help to establish a “fit panel” of 20,000 young adult donors to further reduce the time it takes to find a suitable match for transplant.

Both Anthony Nolan and NHS Blood and Transplant will also receive £2m to increase collection services at its five umbilical cord blood collection sites to a 24/7 service.

They will also be opening a new collection facility towards the end of the year. This will see the NHS Cord Blood Bank, already one of the largest in the world, grow from 17,000 to 35,000 processed and stored units.

Lynda Hamlyn, chief executive of NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “This investment by government will help increase the number of stem cell samples collected and, equally important, reduce the waiting time for patients to find a suitable match.

“Both of these will help us in our mission to save more lives and improve the life chances of others.”

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