Canada's first national public blood bank for umbilical cord blood began taking donations Monday at the Ottawa Hospital.
Canadian Blood Services said the bank will let the public donate rather than discard umbilical cords, which are a rich source of stem cells.
Some 1,000 Canadians are currently waiting for life-saving stem cell transplants to treat diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma or aplastic anemia, according to Canadian Blood Services.
The group said Canada was the only G8 nation that doesn't have a national public cord blood bank.
Robert Klaassen, a hematologist/oncologist at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, said the new cord blood bank is "long overdue."
Klaassen said having our own national cord blood bank will shorten wait times and increase the pool of potential matches when stem cells are needed, while cord blood will also provide a more flexible source of stem cells than bone marrow.
"The main problem we have is that many patients when they need a bone marrow transplant don't have a brother or sister or sibling to match to so we have to start looking for unrelated matches," said Klaassen.