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Hematopoietic stem cells can be used to treat more than 70 types of diseases, including diseases of the immune system, genetic disorders, neurologic disorders, and some forms of cancer, including leukemia and lymphoma. For some of these diseases, stem cells are the primary treatment. For others, treatment with stem cells may be used when other treatments have not worked or in experimental research programs.
Haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) can make every type of cell in the blood – red cells, white cells and platelets. They are responsible for maintaining blood production throughout our lives. They have been used for many years in bone marrow transplants to treat blood diseases.
One part of the Program, the Cord Blood Coordinating Center, has a network of cord blood banks, including some banks that get Federal support to build the NCBI. The Cord Blood Coordinating Center works with its network of cord blood banks to recruit expectant parents for umbilical cord blood donations and to distribute cord blood units listed on the registry of the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program, also called the Be The Match Registry®. The registry is a listing of potential marrow donors and donated cord blood units.
Banking cord blood is a new type of medical protection, and there are a lot of questions that parents may want to ask. The Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood organization even has questions it believes all parents should ask their cord blood banks. We have answers to these and other frequently asked cord blood questions in our FAQs. If you can’t find the answer for which you are looking, please feel free to engage one of our cord blood educators through the website’s chat interface.
Upon arrival at CBR’s laboratory, the kit is immediately checked in and inspected. Next, the cord blood unit is tested for sterility, viability, and cell count. In addition, the cord tissue is tested for sterility. CBR processes cord blood using the AutoXpress® Platform* (AXP®) – a fully automated, functionally closed stem cell processing technology. The AXP platform is an integral component of CBR’s proprietary CellAdvantage® system. CBR has the industry’s highest published average cell recovery rate of 99%.
First isolated in 1998, there is a lot of controversy around acquiring embryonic stem cells. Thankfully, we can also acquire the stem cells that form just a little bit later down the road, like in the umbillical cord tissue. These stem cells, known as adult stem cells, stay with us for life. (Later, we will learn why not all adult stem cells are equal.) Adult stem cells are more limited in the types of cells they can become, something known as being tissue-specific, but share many of the same qualities. Hematopoietic stem cells (Greek “to make blood” and pronounced he-mah-toe-po-ee-tic) found in the umbilical cord’s blood, for instance, can become any of the different types of blood cells found in the body and are the foundation of our immune system. Another example is mesenchymal (meh-sen-ki-mal) stem cells, which can be found in the umbilical cord tissue and can become a host of cells including those found in your nervous system, sensory organs, circulatory tissues, skin, bone, cartilage, and more.
The first cord blood transplant was performed in Paris on October 6, 1988. Since that time, over 1 million cord blood units have been collected and stored in public and family banks all over the world.
Another way scientists are working with stem cells is through expansion technologies that spur replication of the cord blood stem cells. If proven effective and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, these expansion technologies will allow scientists to culture many stem cells from a small sample. This could provide doctors and researchers with enough stem cells to treat multiple family members with one cord blood collection or provide the baby with multiple treatments over time. To better prepare for the day when these expansion technologies are more easily accessible, some cord blood banks have begun to separate their cord blood collections into separate compartments, which can easily be detached from the rest of the collection and used independently. You can learn more about Cryo-Cell’s five-chambered storage bag here.
Some parents-to-be are sold on the advertising that banking their child’s cord blood could potentially treat an array of diseases the child, or his siblings, could encounter in their lives. Other parents-to-be may find all the promises too good to be true.
Scientists first found ways to use stem cells in bone marrow, and following this discovery, the first stem cell transplant was performed in 1956 via bone marrow between identical twins. It resulted in the complete remission of the one twin’s leukemia.
Cord blood is one of three sources of blood-regenerating cells used in stem cell transplantation; the other two sources are bone marrow and peripheral blood stem cells. Stem cells have ability to transform themselves into different types of cells that help replace or heal impaired cells such as bone, nerve and blood cells.
Cord blood is used to treat children with cancerous blood disorders such as leukaemia, or genetic blood diseases like Fanconi anaemia. The cord blood is transplanted into the patient, where the HSCs can make new, healthy blood cells to replace those damaged by the patient’s disease or by a medical treatment such as chemotherapy for cancer.
Further advancements were made in 1978, when stem cells were discovered in cord blood and in 1988, when cord blood stem cells were first used in a transplant. Stem cells extracted from the umbilical cord blood or tissue have since been shown to be more advantageous than those extracted from other sources such as bone marrow. In many ways, this is because stem cells from the umbilical cord can be considered naïve and immature compared to stem cells from other sources. Cord stem cells haven’t been exposed to disease or environmental pollutants, and they are more accepting of foreign cells. In this case, inexperience makes them stronger.
Sometimes, not enough cord blood can be collected. This problem can occur if the baby is preterm or if it is decided to delay clamping of the umbilical cord. It also can happen for no apparent reason. If an emergency occurs during delivery, priority is given to caring for you and your baby over collecting cord blood.
Tissue is typed and listed on the registry of the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program, also called the Be The Match Registry®. (The registry is a listing of potential marrow donors and donated cord blood units. When a patient needs a transplant, the registry is searched to find a matching marrow donor or cord blood unit.) It’s frozen in a liquid nitrogen freezer and stored, so if the unit is selected as a match for a patient needing a transplant, it will be available.
Some controversial studies suggest that cord blood can help treat diseases other than blood diseases, but often these results cannot be reproduced. Researchers are actively investigating if cord blood might be used to treat various other diseases.
When doctors remove bone marrow, the patient receives anesthesia. This puts them to sleep and numbs any pain from the surgery. Doctors then insert a large needle, and pull the liquid marrow out. Once enough bone marrow is harvested, the solution is filtered and cryogenically frozen.
Because the body’s immune system is designed to find and get rid of what it believes to be outside contaminants, stem cells and other cells of the immune system cannot be transfused into just anyone. For stem cell transfusions of any type, the body’s immune system can mistakenly start attacking the patient’s own body. This is known as graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) and is a big problem post-transplant. GvHD can be isolated and minimal, but it can also be acute, chronic and even deadly.
^ a b Walther, Mary Margaret (2009). “Chapter 39. Cord Blood Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation”. In Appelbaum, Frederick R.; Forman, Stephen J.; Negrin, Robert S.; Blume, Karl G. Thomas’ hematopoietic cell transplantation stem cell transplantation (4th ed.). Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 9781444303537.
‡ Payment Plan Disclosures for in-house CBR 6-Month Plan (interest free) – No credit check required. The 6-month plan requires a $10/month administrative fee. The plans may be prepaid in full at any time.
In a report to the HRSA Advisory Council, scientists estimated that the chances of a pediatric patient finding a cord blood donor in the existing Be the Match registry are over 90 percent for almost all ethnic groups.
More cord blood donations are desperately needed to cover the transplant needs of adults. Cord blood donations from newborns of diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds are especially needed. Tissue types are inherited, so patients who need a stem cell transplant are more likely to find a matched cord blood unit from someone in their own race or ethnic group.
Make sure you meet a few basic guidelines for public banking. Your doctor will give you an advanced blood test after giving birth, but there are a few basic requirements you have to meet before signing up. The requirements are different for each bank, but you can see our basic list of public banking requirements here.
The biggest advantage for cord blood is the “immaturity” of the cells, which means transplants do not require an exact match. For bone marrow and peripheral blood transplants, donors need to match the patient’s cellular structure. However, cord blood cells can adapt to a wide variety of patients, and don’t require donor matching. Chances for graft-versus-host disease are also much lower for cord blood transplants.
AutoXpress™ Platform (AXP) cord blood processing results in a red-cell reduced stem cell product. Each sample is stored in a cryobag consisting of two compartments (one major and one minor) and two integrally attached segments used for unit testing.