LIMA — New mothers are donating their placentas to help patients with diabetic ulcers, severe burns and chronic wounds.
Organ donor network Lifeline of Ohio has been working with a small number of Ohio hospitals, including Lima Memorial Health System and Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center in Lima, to educate soon-to-be mothers about how their donated birth tissues can be used in wound care.
The placenta – an organ which forms in a woman’s uterus during pregnancy to provide oxygen and nutrients to the fetus – is typically discarded as medical waste after birth.
But Andrew Mullins, chief operating officer for Lifeline of Ohio, says a single placenta can be transformed into about 25 healing grafts for difficult-to-treat wounds.
Lifeline of Ohio has already recovered an estimated 50 placentas since its birth tissue donor program started in May, Mullins said.
“It is, essentially, a biological wound dressing,” said George Herrera, vice president of donor services for MTF Biologics, a New Jersey nonprofit tissue bank which works with Lifeline of Ohio to create healing grafts from placental donations.
Herrera said there’s high demand for healing grafts among diabetics, who are at risk of developing open wounds or ulcers. While these wounds may be treated with ointments and other wound coverings, Herrera said placental healing grafts may be used in hard-to-treat cases.
To make a healing graft, MTF Biologics separates the amnion and chorion tissues from the placenta, which are then fused into a thin, flexible film that can be laid over the wound. Herrera said the process can take several weeks, with multiple appointments to treat and redress the wound before it closes.
“The biological factors in that tissue helps speed up the healing when perhaps it has not been healing very well on its own,” Herrera said.
Only mothers who plan to give birth via cesarean section are eligible to become donors.
There is no risk to the baby or mother, Mullins said, as the placenta, umbilical cord and amniotic fluid – collectively known as birth tissue – are collected after birth.
“The biggest (issue),” Mullins said, “is to make sure that the physician has determined that the baby’s doing well and there’s no abnormalities noted when they view the placenta.”
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.