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With the consent of the parents, blood can be collected from the umbilical cord of a newborn baby shortly after birth. This does not hurt the baby or the mother in any way, and it is blood that would otherwise be discarded as biological waste along with the placenta (another rich source of stem cells) after the birth.
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.
After your unit arrives at ViaCord’s Processing Lab, specialists will process your baby’s stem cells to maximize cell yield. They are then transferred to a transplant-ready cryobag for storage at or below ≤ -170º C (brrr).
After your baby is born, the umbilical cord and placenta are usually thrown away. Because you are choosing to donate, the blood left in the umbilical cord and placenta will be collected and tested. Cord blood that meets standards for transplant will be stored at the public cord blood bank until needed by a patient. (It is not saved for your family.)
Our annual storage fee is due every year on the birth date of the child and covers the cost of storage until the following birthday. The fee is fixed upon enrollment for 18 years and will not increase during that span of time. If the stem cells are preserved after the 18th year, preservation may then fall under the new pricing structure.
Your adult cells have one disadvantage to cord blood cells – they cannot change their cell type. When stem cells from cord blood and tissue are transplanted, they adjust to fit the individual patient and replace damaged cells. Adult stem cells are also older, which means they have been exposed to disease, and may damage patients after the transplant. Compared to cord blood cells, adult cells have a higher chance for graft-versus-host disease.
Umbilical cord blood was once discarded as waste material but is now known to be a useful source of blood stem cells. Cord blood has been used to treat children with certain blood diseases since 1989 and research on using it to treat adults is making progress. So what are the current challenges for cord blood research and how may it be used – now and in the future?
Started the National Cord Blood Inventory (NCBI). The goal of the NCBI is to collect and store at least 150,000 new cord blood units. These cord blood units are used for patients who need a transplant but do not have a matching donor within their family. To continue to help the success of transplants, the NCBI banks will provide additional cord blood units for research.
In addition, CBR offers Genetic Counselors on staff to help families make informed decisions about newborn stem cell banking. Phone 1-888-CORDBLOOD1-888-CORDBLOOD to speak with a CBR Genetic Counselor.
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Families have the additional option of storing a section of the umbilical cord, which is rich in unique and powerful stem cells that may help repair and heal the body in different ways than stem cells derived from cord blood.
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.
Stem cells are injected into the veins during a peripheral blood transplant, and naturally work their way to the bone marrow. Once there, the new cells start increasing healthy blood count. Compared to bone marrow transplants, cells from peripheral blood are usually faster, creating new blood cells within two weeks.
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.
Once donated cord blood is listed on the Be the Match registry, doctors can access it to treat patients who need stem cell transplants. Public cord blood banks keep the names of both mothers and babies confidential to protect the privacy of families.
The first cord blood banks were private cord blood banks. In fact, Cryo-Cell is the world’s first private cord blood bank. It wasn’t until later that the government realized the need to preserve cord blood for research and public welfare. As a result, 31 states have adopted a law or have a piece of pending legislation that requires or encourages OBGYNs to educate expectant parents about cord blood banking and many states now have publicly held cord blood banks. As a result, parents have the option of banking their baby’s cord blood privately for the exclusive use of the child and the rest of the family or donating the cord blood to a public bank so that it can be used in research or by any patient who is a match and in need.
While most people have a small amount of stem cells in their bloodstream, donors produce more stem cells after taking growth factor hormones. Doctors give these medications a few days before stem cell harvesting, which makes the bone marrow push more cells into the bloodstream.
With public cord blood banks, there’s a greater chance that your cord blood will be put to use because it could be given to any child or adult in need, says William T. Shearer, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Pediatrics and Immunology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Cord blood is donated and is put on a national registry, to be made available for any transplant patient. So if your child should need the cord blood later in life, there’s no guarantee you would be able to get it back.
Most public banks only work with selected hospitals in their community. They do this because they need to train the staff who will collect the cord blood, and they want the blood to be transported to their laboratory as quickly as possible. A parent who wants to donate should start by finding public banks in your country.
Women typically sign up for cord blood banking between the 28th and 34th week of pregnancy. Some private banks will allow for early or late sign up, but most public storage facilities won’t accept any mother past her 34th week. While most banks don’t officially sign up mothers until a certain time, it’s never too early to research.
Parents who wish to donate cord blood are limited by whether there is a public bank that collects donations from the hospital or clinic where their baby will be born. Search our list of public banks in your country. Parents who wish to store cord blood and/or cord tissue for their family can find and compare private banks in your country. Family banks usually offer payment plans or insurance policies to lower the cost of cord blood banking.
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.
For these and other reasons, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and many physicians do not recommend private cord blood banking except as “directed donations” in cases where a family member already has a current need or a very high potential risk of needing a bone marrow transplant. In all other cases, the AAP has declared the use of cord blood as “biological insurance” to be “unwise.” [Read the AAP’s news release at http://www.aap.org/advocacy/archives/julcord.htm ]
The stem cells from your baby’s cord blood may also be effective in treating certain diseases or conditions of a parent or sibling. Cord blood stem cells have similar ability to treat disease as bone marrow but with significantly less rejection.
The umbilical cord is a rich source of two main types of stem cells: cord blood stem cells and cord tissue stem cells. Through the science of cord blood and cord tissue banking, these stem cells can help nurture life, long after your baby’s birth.
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.
Cord tissue is rich in another type of stem cell. Although there are no current uses, researchers are excited about the benefits cord tissue stem cells may offer in potential future users, such as regenerative medicine. By storing both, you’ll have potential access to more possibilities
Current applications for newborn stem cells include treatments for certain cancers and blood, metabolic and immune disorders. Additionally, newborn stem cell preservation has a great potential to benefit the newborn’s immediate family members with stem cell samples preserved in their most pristine state.
Private cord blood banking costs $2,000 to $3,000 for the initial fee, and around another $100 per year for storage. While that may seem like a hefty price tag, many expectant parents may see it as an investment in their child’s long-term health.
HSCs can become any type of blood cell or cellular blood component inside the body, including white blood cells and red blood cells. These cells are found in umbilical cord blood and are multipotent, which means they can develop into more than one cell type.
Marketing materials by Viacord and Cord Blood Registry, the two largest companies, do not mention that cord blood stem cells cannot be used by the child for genetic diseases, although the fine print does state that cord blood may not be effective for all of the listed conditions.
Donors to public banks must be screened for blood or immune system disorders or other problems. With a cord blood donation, the mother’s blood is tested for genetic disorders and infections, and the cord blood also is tested after it is collected. Once it arrives at the blood bank, the cord blood is “typed.” It is tracked by a computer so that it can be found quickly for any person who matches when needed.