San Antonio-based GenCure marks anniversary of Texas Cord Blood Bank: Lifesaving therapy has living example in A.J. Salazar

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Researchers started using cord blood transplants in 1998, and the Texas Cord Blood Bank, administered by GenCure, recently marked its 12th anniversary.

A.J. Salazar senior photo

“More people definitely need to donate cord blood. They might not realize the difference it makes until they are in a situation like we were. Giving cord blood helps save lives. I think everyone should do it.” Roxanne Salazar

More than 17 years ago, researchers in South Texas began a mission to collect, categorize and store a rich source of what has become one of today's cutting-edge therapies.

What grew out of that effort to collect stem cell-rich cord blood -- the blood left in the umbilical cord after a baby is born -- recently marked its 12th anniversary as the Texas Cord Blood Bank. The bank is housed in and administered by San Antonio-based GenCure, a subsidiary of BioBridge Global.

The TCBB works with 13 hospitals from across Texas to collect and house cord blood, which is rich in stem cells. Researchers around the world are looking into using stem cells for treating everything from heart disease to Alzheimer's.

One of the first uses identified for cord blood stem cells was leukemia, which 15 years ago struck San Antonio native A.J. Sal;azar.

Just before his fourth birthday, Salazar was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of blood cancer called acute myeloid leukemia‎. As part of the treatment, he needed a stem cell transplant, but no one in his family was a match.

"There is nothing like a doctor telling you that your baby needs a transplant,” says his mother, Roxanne. “It was a nightmare."

Today, there’s a much better chance of finding a match, thanks to both the GenCure Cord Blood Bank and the Be the Match national database.

Roxanne Salazar was seven months pregnant when A.J. was diagnosed, giving the family hope.

When A.J.’s sister Brianna was born two months later, doctors collected the blood from her umbilical cord. That blood met the criteria to be a perfect match, and was transplanted into her big brother.This played a major role in what has become a complete recovery.

More than 15 years later, A.J. is starting classes at Palo Alto College in San Antonio, with the goal of transferring to UTSA, earning a degree, to become a teacher and football coach.

While growing up, he played football and was a starting linebacker at East Central High School.

“He’s all football, all the time,” his mother says with a laugh.

But she says the family also understands the value of A.J.’s second chance – especially A.J. and Brianna.

“I bring up A.J.’s transplant to them because they were so young when it happened and don’t remember,” Roxanne says. “I tell them about it. They’re stunned every time I tell the story. Brianna can’t believe she actually helped save her brother’s life. We explain to him what happened, and that Brianna gave him a second chance.”

Roxanne has become an advocate for cord blood donations, which are cataloged and stored at 13 locations like the Texas Cord Blood Bank for use in therapy across the country.

“More people definitely need to donate cord blood,” she says. “They might not realize the difference it makes until they are in a situation like we were. Giving cord blood helps save lives. I think everyone should do it.”

The process simply involves a signed consent from the mother, along with other paperwork, at a participating hospital. A list of the hospitals is available at the GenCure website. There is no cost for mothers to donate.

About GenCure: GenCure, a Texas nonprofit corporation, focuses on regenerative medicine and uses the power of human cells and tissues to inspire hope, enhance lives and enable clinical advancements. Using processed tissue and cell-based therapies, GenCure works to connect health care requirements with innovative solutions that best serve the needs of the global patient community. Visit us at

About BioBridge Global: BioBridge Global (BBG) is a San Antonio, Texas-based nonprofit corporation that offers diverse services through its subsidiaries – the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, QualTex Laboratories, GenCure and the Blood & Tissue Center Foundation. BBG provides products and services in blood resource management, cellular therapy, donated umbilical cord blood and human tissue as well as testing of blood, plasma and tissue products for clients in the United States and worldwide. BBG is rooted in the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, which has a proud history of serving the South Texas region and beyond for more than 40 years. BBG is committed to supporting groundbreaking research, addressing unmet clinical needs and enabling the development and commercialization of novel biotechnology products. Visit us at

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