CROWN POINT | Donated tissue from new Northwest Indiana moms is being sent to Boston to help heal victims of the recent bombings.
Local hospitals in the Franciscan Alliance network participate in a cord blood and amnion donation program with New Haven, Ind.-based Life Line Stem Cells.
Amnion, a covering over the placenta that can be removed from mothers who have cesarean sections, is used in breast reconstruction, ocular resurfacing and to treat burns and wounds, among other procedures.
A processor for Life Line Stem Cells reached out to Boston-area hospitals, which accepted the offer for donated amnion to treat bomb victims, company CEO Terri Tibbot said.
"It's neat to know there's a little bit of Indiana that's going up there to help," she said.
Tibbot could not say for sure how the amnion will be used in Boston, but in general, it is used as a layer to promote healing.
"It does amazing things for wound care, especially on wounds that won't heal," she said.
The cells harvested from the cord blood are called hematopoietic stem cells. After the umbilical cord is cut, the blood is drained into special blood bags and sent across the country for processing.
The cells are used to treat leukemia and various cancers. Researchers use the cells to study Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease, among others, Tibbot said.
"They're absolute little power houses," she said of the cells.
Franciscan St. Anthony Health hospital in Crown Point donates the most cord blood to Life Line, contributing 24 percent of the registered units the company collects, Tibbot said.
The donations fit with the hospital's Christian stewardship, said Carol Schuster, chief nursing officer for Franciscan Alliance Northern Indiana Region.
"It's such a valuable resource," she said of the cells. "This is a way to do it and still follow our Catholic directives."
The down side is that only a small percentage of cord blood, 3 to 10 percent, has enough stem cells to be useable. In Indiana, the number is slightly higher, at 12 percent, Tibbot said.
"Each unit has to produce at least 2 billion stem cells to be useable," she said.
Sister M. Aline Shultz, corporate vice president of marketing and public relations for Franciscan Alliance, said cord blood donation is consistent with the hospital's efforts to promote organ, bone and tissue donation.
"All life is sacred," she said. "We are not participating in any embryonic stem cell research. These are extracted as a byproduct from waste products from birth."
Most women giving birth are quick to consent to donating cord blood, Shultz said.