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Memorial Blood Centers Receives Funding for Leading-edge Research

June 05, 2012

June 5, 2012 (St. Paul, MN) - Memorial Blood Centers (MBC), a national leader in transfusion medicine, today announced the receipt of a $50,000 grant from The Foundation for America’s Blood Centers (FABC) that will further research into blood donor safety. The multi-year Iron Depletion and Replacement in Donors Study will be conducted in partnership with the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center (MVRBC) of Davenport, Iowa and spearheaded by Dr. Jed Gorlin, MBC Medical Director and Dr. Louis Katz, Executive Vice President, Medical Affairs at MVRBC. Two thousand blood donors, 18-years and older, will be recruited to participate: 1,000 participants from each blood center organization.

Across the country, a low hemoglobin level is the most common medical reason why potential blood donors are deferred from making a donation. And a recent public workshop, sponsored by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), highlighted the need to look for new approaches to preserve iron stores in donors while also ensuring an adequate blood supply. The Iron Depletion and Replacement in Donors Study is designed to respond to the FDA’s call.

In announcing the award, FABC Vice President of Operations Matt Granato said, "The Foundation for America's Blood Centers is pleased to support this important study that will impact all members of America’s Blood Centers (ABC) and their donors. We are particularly interested in the perspective and focus that two of the country's leading transfusion specialists, Drs. Louis Katz and Jed Gorlin, will bring to this imperative work."

The overarching goal of the Iron Depletion and Replacement in Donors Study is to lower the number of blood donation deferrals due to iron deficiency. According to Memorial Blood Centers’ Dr. Jed Gorlin, “Every blood center faces a similar quandary created by frequent blood donation: the more often a donor gives blood, the more likely the donor will be deferred due to low hemoglobin. Deferred donors are much less likely to return to donate again and, as a result, the nation’s pool of volunteer donors is markedly reduced. This is especially the case among younger female donors.”

Agreeing with Dr. Gorlin, Dr. Louis Katz added. “Maintaining a healthy and robust donor base is especially critical at a time when a large proportion of current donors are aging and we anticipate will move from giving blood to receiving blood.”

Based on existing protocols, during the routine mini-physical prior to blood donation a simple test measures a donor’s hemoglobin level. If less than 12.5 g/dL, the donor is not allowed to donate blood and asked to return at a later date. This hemoglobin threshold is the same for both men and women despite the fact that men naturally have higher hemoglobin levels than women. In addition, this standard blood test does not specifically measure the levels of iron stored in the body. As a result, an iron deficient male may be allowed to donate blood while a woman whose iron stores are adequate may be deferred.

While previous studies have evaluated the efficacy of iron replacement in blood donors who are deferred because of low hemoglobin, the Iron Depletion and Replacement in Donors Study will include testing of ferritin—a measure of iron stores—and also offer iron replacement to donors who qualify for donation but may be at risk of iron deficiency. As part of the study, participant data will be compared to data collected under current testing protocols to determine if education and iron replacement result in decreased rates of subsequent donor deferral.

The Iron Depletion and Replacement in Donors Study is designed to establish a nationally scalable program that can be implemented by other members of America’s Blood Centers across the country.

About Memorial Blood Centers

Memorial Blood Centers has been saving lives for over 60 years as an independent nonprofit supplying life-saving blood to area hospitals and other partners throughout the U.S. Operating 11 donor centers and conducting hundreds of blood drives each month, Memorial Blood Centers also provides comprehensive testing and expert technical services as a national leader in transfusion medicine. For more information, call 888-GIVE-BLD or visit About Us.

About Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center

Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center (MVRBC), headquartered in Davenport, IA, currently serves more than 80 hospital partners throughout Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Missouri. Formed in the mid-1970s in a merger of the Scott and Rock Island County Medical Societies’ blood banks in the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois, the MVRBC now operates 19 donor centers and hosts 4,000 mobile blood drives annually.

About The Foundation for America's Blood Centers

Founded in 1997, the Foundation for America's Blood Centers (FABC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works in partnership with members of America's Blood Centers, a network of nonprofit community blood centers responsible for half of the U.S. blood supply and a quarter of the Canadian blood supply. The FABC funds initiatives that improve the availability, quality, and safety of blood and related products—all to save, extend, or enhance the lives of patients.