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There was a time before the 1990s when the umbilical cord and its blood were considered medical waste. Today, parents bank or store their baby’s umbilical cord blood because the stem cells it contains are currently utilized or show promise in the treatment of life-threatening and debilitating diseases.
There are some hospitals that have dedicated collections staff who can process mothers at the last minute when they arrive to deliver the baby. However, in the United States that is the exception to the rule.
For example, in the UK the NHS Cord Blood Bank has been collecting and banking altruistically donated umbilical cord blood since 1996. The cord blood in public banks like this is stored indefinitely for possible transplant, and is available for any patient that needs this special tissue type. There is no charge to the donor but the blood is not stored specifically for that person or their family.
On average, the transport time for stem cells from the hospital to CBR’s lab is 19 hours. CBR partners with Quick International, a private medical courier service with 30 years of experience in the transportation of blood and tissue for transplant and research.
Umbilical cord blood is blood that remains in the placenta and in the attached umbilical cord after childbirth. Cord blood is collected because it contains stem cells, which can be used to treat hematopoietic and genetic disorders.
Florida Hospital for Children is conducting an FDA-regulated phase I clinical trial to investigate the use of a child’s stem cells derived from their own cord blood as a treatment for acquired sensorineural hearing loss.
Meet Dylan. Diagnosed with leukemia at just 8 weeks old, he received a life-saving cord blood transplant at 6 months old. Today, Dylan is growing up strong, going to school, travelling with his family and just having fun being a kid!
Chloe Savannah Metz’ mother donated her baby girl’s cord blood to the NCBP in December 2000. “Many thanks to the New York Blood Center for giving us the opportunity to donate our cord — we hope to give someone a second chance!” – Christine Metz
For families that choose to bank cord blood, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends public cord blood banking. Estimates vary, but the chances of a child having a stem cell transplant, with either bone marrow or cord blood, are 1 in 217 over a lifetime. Although the AAP states cord blood has been used to treat certain diseases successfully, there isn’t strong evidence to support cord blood banking. If a family does decide on cord blood banking, the AAP recommends public cord blood banking (instead of private) to cut down on costs. If you donate cord blood and your child eventually needs it, you can get it back as long as it hasn’t been discarded or used.
Through these two means, we are always producing more cells. In fact, much of your body is in a state of constant renewal because many cells can live for only certain periods of time. The lifespan for a cell in the stomach lining is about two days. Red blood cells, about four months. Nerve and brain cells are supposed to live forever. This is why these cells rarely regenerate and take a long time if they do.
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Umbilical cord blood is being studied for potential use in a wide variety of life-threatening diseases because it is a rich source of blood stem cells. Transplantation of blood stem cells from umbilical cords has been used successfully to treat several pediatric blood diseases, including sickle cell anemia and cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma. This procedure is still considered investigational. There is currently no solid evidence that umbilical cord blood stem cells have the ability to be transformed into other types of cells, such as replacement nerve tissue or myelin-making cells.
Your baby’s cord blood could be a valuable resource for another family. From foundations to non-profit blood banks and medical facilities, there are numerous locations that will collect, process, and use the stem cells from your baby’s cord blood to treat other people.
The use of hematopoietic stem cells, which can be found in the blood that remains in the vein of the umbilical cord and placenta after birth, is a proven treatment of more than 80 diseases. Mesenchymal 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, are making progress in clinical trials. Some such trials show promise in treating strokes, heart disease, diabetes, autism, cerebral palsy and Alzheimer’s disease.
Beyond these blood-related disorders, the therapeutic potential of umbilical cord blood stem cells is unclear. No therapies for non-blood-related diseases have yet been developed using HSCs from either cord blood or adult bone marrow. There have been several reports suggesting that umbilical cord blood contains other types of stem cells that are able to produce cells from other tissues, such as nerve cells. Some other reports claim that umbilical cord blood contains embryonic stem cell-like cells. However, these findings are highly controversial among scientists and are not widely accepted.
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 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.”
Generally, cord blood can only be used to treat children up to 65 lbs. This is because there simply aren’t enough stem cells on average in one unit of cord blood to treat an adult. Through our Cord Blood 2.0 technology, we have been able to collect up to twice as many stem cells as the industry average. Getting more stem cells increases the chance of being able to treat someone later in life.
Once it arrives at the storage facility, the cord blood will be processed and placed in storage. The cord blood will either be completely immersed in liquid nitrogen or it will be stored in nitrogen vapor.
Stem cells are often extracted from cord blood and bone marrow.Different cells have different life cycles, and many are constantly regenerating, but when damage occurs and the body needs to come up with a new supply of cells to heal itself, it relies on the stem cell’s ability to quickly create more cells to repair the wound. Herein lays the potential for the introduction of new stem cells to enhance or be the driving factor in the healing process.
There is a high likelihood that immediate biological family members could benefit from the baby’s cord tissue stem cells, with parents having a 100% likelihood of being compatible, siblings having a 75% likelihood of being compatible, and grandparents having a 25% likelihood of being compatible.16,50 Another reason why parents today are choosing to bank their baby’s cord tissue for the future.
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.
Cord Blood Registry® (CBR®) is the world’s largest newborn stem cell company. Founded in 1992, CBR is entrusted by parents with storing samples from more than 600,000 children. CBR is dedicated to advancing the clinical application of cord blood and cord tissue stem cells by partnering with institutions to establish FDA-regulated clinical trials for conditions that have no cure today.CBR has helped more than 400 families use their cord blood stem cells for established and experimental medical treatments, more than any other family cord blood bank. CBR’s goal is to expand the potential scope of newborn stem cell therapies that may be available to patients and their families.
Cord blood collection is a completely painless procedure that does not interfere with the birth or with mother-and-child bonding following the delivery. There is no risk to either the mother or baby. Cord blood collection rarely requires Blood Center staff to be present during the baby’s delivery. There is no cost to you for donating.
Excitement about cord tissue’s potential to help conditions affecting cartilage, muscle and nerve cells continues to grow.19 Researchers are focusing on a wide range of potential treatment areas, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, liver fibrosis, lung cancer, and sports injuries. Since 2007 there have been 150 clinical trials using cord tissue stem cells.
There are usually two fees involved in cord blood banking. The first is the initial fee that covers enrollment, collection, and storage for at least the first year. The second is an annual storage fee. Some facilities vary the initial fee based upon the length of a predetermined period of storage.
Your free donation will be part of a program that is saving lives and supporting research to discover new uses for cord blood stem cells. Units that meet criteria for storage are made available to anyone, anywhere in the world, who needs a stem cell transplant.
When all the processing and testing is complete, the cord blood stem cells are frozen in cryogenic nitrogen freezers at -196° C until they are requested for patient therapy. Public banks are required to complete the entire laboratory processing and freeze the cord blood stem cells within 48 hours of collection. This is to insure the highest level of stem cell viability. The accreditation agencies allow family banks a window of 72 hours.
Taking time to consider helping another person when you are already busy planning for the birth of your child is greatly appreciated. A gift of cord blood may someday give someone a second chance at life.
The umbilical cord blood contains haematopoietic stem cells – similar to those found in the bone marrow – and which can be used to generate red blood cells and cells of the immune system. Cord blood stem cells are currently used to treat a range of blood disorders and immune system conditions such as leukaemia, anaemia and autoimmune diseases. These stem cells are used largely in the treatment of children but have also started being used in adults following chemotherapy treatment.
The harvested bone marrow is then processed to remove blood and bone fragments. Harvested bone marrow can be combined with a preservative and frozen to keep the stem cells alive until they are needed. This technique is known as cryopreservation. Stem cells can be cryopreserved for many years.
The blood within your baby’s umbilical cord is called ‘cord blood’ for short. Cord blood contains the same powerful stem cells that help your baby develop organs, blood, tissue, and an immune system during pregnancy. After your baby is born, and even after delayed cord clamping, there is blood left over in the umbilical cord that can be collected and saved, or ‘banked.’
Cord blood donation doesn’t cost anything for parents. Public cord blood banks pay for everything which includes the collection, testing, and storing of umbilical cord blood. This means that cord blood donation is not possible in every hospital.
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.
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.
The evolution of stem cell therapies has paved the way for further research being conducted through FDA-regulated clinical trials to uncover their potential in regenerative medicine applications. Cord Blood Registry is the first family newborn stem cell company to partner with leading research institutions to establish FDA-regulated clinical trials exploring the potential regenerative ability of cord blood stem cells to help treat conditions that have no cure today, including: acquired hearing loss, autism, cerebral palsy, and pediatric stroke. In fact, 73% of the stem cell units released by CBR have been used for experimental regenerative therapies – more than any other family cord blood bank in the world.