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What is cord blood and why should we care? Cord blood contains stem cells that have huge potential to help your family. It can only be collected from a newborn’s umbilical cord immediately after birth. They’re unique and can be used to treat life threatening diseases such as anemia and leukemia. We’re just beginning to tap into its potential.
As cord blood is inter-related to cord blood banking, it is often a catch-all term used for the various cells that are stored. It may be surprising for some parents to learn that stored cord blood contains little of what people think of as “blood,” as the red blood cells (RBCs) can actually be detrimental to a cord blood treatment. (As we’ll discuss later, one of the chief goals of cord blood processing is to greatly reduce the volume of red blood cells in any cord blood collection.)
A limitation of cord blood is that it contains fewer HSCs than a bone marrow donation does, meaning adult patients often require two volumes of cord blood for treatments. Researchers are studying ways to expand the number of HSCs from cord blood in labs so that a single cord blood donation could supply enough cells for one or more HSC transplants.
STEM CELLS are found in cord blood, cord tissue, and placenta tissue. These cells are highly valuable to your baby, the mother, and possibly other family members. When you save these stem cells with Americord®, you ensure that they are securely stored for you and your family’s future needs. Learn more >
Be the Match is a nonprofit organization that supports public cord blood banks’ efforts to encourage donations. It maintains the largest public listing of donated cord blood available for transplantation in the United States. The organization has facilitated more than 7,000 unrelated cord blood transplants since the year 2000.
The process used to collect cord blood is simple and painless. After the baby is born, the umbilical cord is cut and clamped. Blood is drawn from the cord with a needle that has a bag attached. The process takes about 10 minutes.
The mother signs an informed consent which gives a “public” cord blood bank permission to collect the cord blood after birth and to list it on a database that can be searched by doctors on behalf of patients. The cord blood is listed purely by its genetic type, with no information about the identity of the donor. In the United States, Be The Match maintains a national network of public cord blood banks and registered cord blood donations. However, all the donation registries around the world cooperate with each other, so that a patient who one day benefits from your child’s cord blood may come from anywhere. It is truly a gift to the benefit of humankind.
Congratulations to the Marepalli family, this week’s winners of a free year of storage! CBR Clients: Enter for a chance to win by tagging a family photo with #CBRFamilyContest! #MyStemCellsLiveAtCBR pic.twitter.com/RLIx54bLqS
Stem cells can be used in treatments for many different types of diseases. One of the main places young stem cells are found is in cord blood, which can be stored at birth and saved for future use if needed. Stem cells are also found in other places in the human body, including blood and bone marrow.
An HLA match helps ensure the body accepts the new cell and the transplant is successful. It also reduces the risk of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), which is when the transplanted cells attack the recipient’s body. GVHD occurs in 30%–40% of recipients when they aren’t a perfect match but the donor is still related. If the donor and recipient are not related, it increases to a 60%–80% risk. The better the match, the more likely any GVHD symptoms will be mild, if they suffer from GVHD at all. Unfortunately, GVHD can also be deadly.
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.
Then, the cord blood is listed on a national registry. Be The Match is the name of the U.S. registry. This organization also partners with international programs, which means your child’s stem cells could be used to treat a patient on the other side of the world.
Whole genome sequencing is the process of mapping out the entire DNA sequence of a person’s genome. This test can show what type of health concerns we might face and most importantly how we can improve our health and quality of life.
The European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE) has also adopted a position on the ethical aspects of umbilical cord blood banking. The EGE is of the opinion that “support for public cord blood banks for allogeneic transplantations should be increased and long term functioning should be assured.” They further stated that “the legitimacy of commercial cord blood banks for autologous use should be questioned as they sell a service which has presently no real use regarding therapeutic options.”
Today, cord blood stems cells are used in the treatment of nearly 80 diseases, including a wide range of cancers, genetic diseases, and blood disorders.2 In a cord blood transplant, stem cells are infused in to a patient’s bloodstream where they go to work healing and repairing damaged cells and tissue. When a transplant is successful, a healthy new immune system has been created.
There are no health risks related to cord blood collection. Cord blood is retrieved from the umbilical cord after it has been cut, thus preventing any pain, discomfort, or harm. This process is completely safe.
Stem cells are powerful, adaptable cells that can be used to promote healing and reverse damage. Stem cells are found in various places within the human body, but the purest stem cells are found in the umbilical cord.
Lead image of baby’s umbilical cord from Wikimedia Commons. Possible human blood stem cell image by Rajeev Gupta and George Chennell. Remaining images of blood sample bags and red blood cells from Wellcome Images.
Depending on the predetermined period of storage, the initial fee can range from $900 to $2100. Annual storage fees after the initial storage fee are approximately $100. It is common for storage facilities to offer prepaid plans at a discount and payment plans to help make the initial storage a more attractive option for you and your family.
When a patient needs bone marrow for a transplant, stem cells are thawed and injected into the bloodstream. The cells then make their way to the bone marrow, and start producing new blood cells – this process usually takes a few weeks.
A large challenge facing many areas of medical research and treatments is correcting misinformation. Some companies advertise services to parents suggesting they should pay to freeze their child’s cord blood in a blood bank in case it’s needed later in life. Studies show it is highly unlikely that the cord blood will ever be used for their child. However, clinicians strongly support donating cord blood to public blood banks. This greatly helps increase the supply of cord blood to people who need it.
Stem cells from cord blood can be used for the newborn, their siblings, and potetinally other relatives. Patients with genetic disorders like cystic fibrosis, cannot use their own cord blood and will need stem cells from a sibling’s cord blood. In the case of leukemia or other blood disorders, a child can use either their own cord blood or their sibling’s for treatment.
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.
This is the time of year when many employers and insurance companies hold open enrollment for insurance plans, for the upcoming year. Along with the usual medical, dental, and life insurance plans, many families also opt to enroll in a Medical Flexible Spending Account (or FSA). This type of account offers tax advantages for eligible healthcare costs throughout the year for you and all your dependents. Your Medical FSA is funded by pre-taxed payroll deductions in the amount you choose and covers a wide range of eligible medical expenses including those that result from the diagnosis, care, treatment, or prevention of disease or illness.
If clients need to use the cord blood stem cells stored with CBR for transplantation and the cells fail to engraft, clients receive a full refund of all fees paid to CBR for cord blood services plus an additional $50,000.
Expectant families interested in donating can call 1-800-KARMANOS (1-800-527-6266). Potential donors will be provided with general information regarding the donation process. Staff will be available to answer any questions or concerns you may have along the way.
^ Li, T; Xia, M; Gao, Y; Chen, Y; Xu, Y (2015). “Human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells: an overview of their potential in cell-based therapy”. Expert Opinion on Biological Therapy. 15 (9): 1293–306. doi:10.1517/14712598.2015.1051528. PMID 26067213.
When an immediate family member has a disease that requires a stem cell transplant, cord blood from a newborn baby in the family may be the best option. There is a 25% chance, for example, that cord blood will be a perfect match for a sibling, because each child shares one of its two HLA genes with each parent. Occasionally cord blood will be a good match for a parent if, by chance, both parents share some of the six HLA antigens. The baby’s cord blood is less likely to be a good match for more distant relatives. The inventories of unrelated cord blood units in public cord blood banks are more likely to provide appropriate matches for parents and distant relatives, as well as for siblings that do not match.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration regulates any facility that stores cord blood; cord blood intended for use in the person from whom it came is not regulated, but cord blood for use in others is regulated as a drug and as a biologic. Several states also have regulations for cord blood banks.
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.
When the medical courier delivers the cord blood collection kit to the cord blood bank, it is quickly processed to ensure the continued viability of the stem cells and immune system cells found in the cord blood. Firstly, a sample of the cord blood is tested for microbiological contamination, and the mother’s blood is tested for infectious diseases. As these tests are being conducted, the cord blood is processed to reduce the number of red blood cells and its total volume and isolate the stem cells and immune cells.
^ Reddi, AS; Kuppasani, K; Ende, N (December 2010). “Human umbilical cord blood as an emerging stem cell therapy for diabetes mellitus”. Current stem cell research & therapy. 5 (4): 356–61. doi:10.2174/157488810793351668. PMID 20528762.
Donating your baby’s cord blood to a public bank is always free. The limitations of the public banking network in the United States are: they only collect donations at large birthing hospitals in ethnically diverse communities, the mother must pass a health screening, they prefer registration by 34 weeks of pregnancy, and they only save the largest cord blood collections. The potential reward of public donation is that your baby could Be The Match to save a life!
In this way, cord blood offers a useful alternative to bone marrow transplants for some patients. It is easier to collect than bone marrow and can be stored frozen until it is needed. It also seems to be less likely than bone marrow to cause immune rejection or complications such as Graft versus Host Disease. This means that cord blood does not need to be as perfectly matched to the patient as bone marrow (though some matching is still necessary).
Cord blood stem cells can be used in the treatment nearly 80 diseases today. Click on a category below to see specific diseases. Note: Banking cord blood does not guarantee that treatment will work and only a doctor can determine when it can be used.
Each year, thousands of people are diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma, or certain immune system or genetic metabolic disorder. Many of these patients need an umbilical cord blood or bone marrow transplant (also called a BMT). Because the qualities that make a suitable match for bone marrow or umbilical cord blood are inherited, a match from a sibling or other family member is often checked first. However, 70 percent of patients will not find a matching donor in their family. For these patients, a transplant of bone marrow or cord blood from an unrelated donor may be their only transplant option.
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.
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.
Let the birthing staff know you’re donating cord blood. They will either have a kit sent to them from the private bank, or have the necessary equipment on location. Your bank should have already spoken with your doctor and the birthing staff on proper cord blood collections procedures, but you want to make sure everyone there knows to collect the umbilical cord after birth.
Cord Blood Registry is headquartered in South San Francisco, California. CBR owns their 80,000 square foot laboratory located in Tucson, Arizona. CBR’s laboratory processes cord blood collections seven days a week, 365 days a year. The state-of-the-art facility has the capacity to store the stem cell samples of five million newborns.
Finally, the healthy stem cells are placed into long-term cryogenic storage. Compared to other stem cell sources, cord blood units are available very quickly since a doctor can remove them from storage and send them to the transplant hospital within a few days.
You can check the status of your child’s cord blood unit any time by contacting the public bank. In most cases, the parents won’t have much control over any donated stem cells, so you probably won’t hear much from the storage facility. They may keep you updated if your cells are being used in a patient or clinical trial, but this is up to the bank. By signing the consent form, you are giving the bank full rights to use your child’s cord blood in any patient or clinical trial available.
Cord blood in public banks is available to unrelated patients who need haematopoietic stem cell transplants. Some banks, such as the NHS bank in the UK, also collect and store umbilical cord blood from children born into families affected by or at risk of a disease for which haematopoietic stem cell transplants may be necessary – either for the child, a sibling or a family member. It is also possible to pay to store cord blood in a private bank for use by your own family only.
Another type of cell that can also be collected from umbilical cord blood are mesenchymal stromal cells. These cells can grown into bone, cartilage and other types of tissues and are being used in many research studies to see if patients could benefit from these cells too.
If you’re looking to attain cord blood from a public bank, be aware that matched cord blood, as with bone marrow, can be difficult to obtain through a public cord blood bank. Once a match is ascertained, it may take valuable weeks, even months, to retrieve the match, and the cost of acquiring the cord blood from a public bank can be upwards of $40,000. When the newborn’s umbilical cord blood is banked privately, they can be retrieved quickly, and since the parents own the cord blood, banks can perform the retrieval free of charge. Learn more about public versus private cord blood banking here.
Cord blood, which is harvested from the umbilical cord right after a baby is born, is marketed as a treatment for diseases such as leukemia and sickle cell disease, and as a potential source of cells for regenerative medicine – a cutting-edge field of medicine studying how to repair tissues damaged by everything from heart disease to cerebral palsy.
CBR Clients: Did you know that when you refer a friend, and they preserve their baby’s stem cells with us, you receive a free year of cord blood storage? After your first referral, you start earning even more rewards. (Exclusions apply): http://bit.ly/CBRreferafriend
CBR was the first family bank accredited by AABB (formerly the American Association of Blood Banks) and the company’s quality standards have been recognized through ISO 9001:2008 certification—the global business standard for quality. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has issued cord blood regulations, and the states of California, Illinois, Maryland, New York and New Jersey have mandatory licensing for cord blood banking. The stringent laboratory processes, record keeping, quality control and quality assurance of CBR are designed to meet all federal and state guidelines and regulations.