Information on Cord Blood Banking
Being pregnant is a wonderful experience. As the due date gets closer and parents look forward to the big day, they start to think seriously about their child's future. Of course, every parent wants the best for their child. And now you have the ability to protect the future wellness of your child as well as other family members. The answer? Umbilical cord blood banking.
In just five minutes, you can have peace of mind knowing that you are helping to protect your family against deadly illnesses.
We're With You All the Way
To understand cord blood banking, it is first necessary to define what cord blood is and the medical uses for it. In essence, cord blood is the blood found inside the umbilical cord, the flexible cordlike structure connecting a fetus at the abdomen with the placenta, from the mother, to provide the transfer of nutrients and removal of waste from the unborn baby.
Where Do Stem Cells Come From?
Following the birth of a baby, the umbilical cord is cut and usually discarded, along with the placenta. However, medical research has shown that the blood that is retrieved from the umbilical cord is a rich source of stem cells. Stem cells are unspecialized cells that can develop into specialized cells such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell.
What Are Stem Cells?
Stems cells are what make cord blood valuable. Stem cells are important for living organisms for many reasons. Like donated bone marrow, stem cells from umbilical cord blood can be used to treat various genetic disorders that affect the blood and immune system, leukemia and certain cancers.
Cord blood has therapeutic advantages over adult stem cells. Cord blood stem cells, unlike adult stem cells, are less likely to contain DNA abnormalities caused by sunlight, toxins and errors in DNA replication during the course of a lifetime. Cord blood stem cells are also less likely to be rejected in transplants.
Cord blood is also a richer source of stem cells than bone marrow, with nearly 10 times as many blood-producing cells, so fewer cord blood cells are needed for a successful transplantation.
Cord blood banks recruit expectant mothers to donate their baby's umbilical cord blood for stem cell transplants. The cord blood banks collect, process, test and store the donated umbilical cord blood. Blood from each cord is frozen (cryopreserved) as an individual cord blood unit that is available to transplant.
Donating Cord Blood
When a mother is interested in donating her child's umbilical cord blood, she looks for a cord blood bank in her community. The cord blood bank asks the mother to complete a consent form and health history questionnaire and give a small blood sample. The cord blood is collected after the baby's birth.
Collecting cord blood poses no health risk to the mother or infant donor. The cord blood is stored only with the mother's signed consent, and no collection is made if there are any complications during delivery.
After the baby's birth, the umbilical cord is clamped, breaking the link between the baby and the placenta. Trained members of staff drain the blood from the umbilical cord and placenta. The blood is usually collected using a needle to draw the blood into a blood bag. The collection usually takes ten minutes or less and it is then sent off for cord blood storage. On average, about three to five fluid ounces are collected from the umbilical cord to produce enough stem cells.
Doctors can search the NMDP (National Marrow Donor Program) Registry of donors and cord blood units to find a match for their patients who need a transplant. If selected, the cord blood unit is transplanted to a matching patient.
Storing Cord Blood
Parents can also choose to save their babies cord blood in a cord blood bank in case of future need as a transplant alternative to bone marrow. A private bank ensures the cord blood stem cells are available only to the family who preserved the cord blood. The stem cells are an exact match for the baby, and the cells have at least a one in four chance of being an exact match for a sibling.
If the cells are needed for transplant, it's been shown that the transplant recipient is more tolerant of a partial match if the cells are from a related donor. Additionally, transplant recipients of cord blood stem cells are less likely to develop severe complications from Graft-versus-Host-Disease than those receiving bone marrow transplants.