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Scientists derive stem cells from adult, fetal and embryonic tissue.

Vasiliy Koval

Canada's first national public blood bank for umbilical cord blood is set to begin taking donations today at an Ottawa hospital.

Canadian Blood Services says the National Public Cord Blood Bank will let the public donate instead of discard umbilical cords, which are a rich source of desperately needed stem cells.

It says some 1,000 Canadians are currently waiting for life-saving stem cell transplants to treat diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma or aplastic anemia.

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Canadian Blood Services says Canada is the only G8 nation that doesn't have a national public cord blood bank.

It says once the bank is fully up and running healthy pregnant women 18 years or older will be able to donate at collection hospitals in Ottawa, Brampton, Ont., Edmonton and Vancouver.

Similar private banks already operate, but CReATe Cord Blood Bank founder Dr. Clifford Librach says the launch of the public bank taking donations for use in non-family patients will spread the word about umbilical cord donations.

"It increases awareness for patients who may not have been aware of this whole process or their options."

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