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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.
If a sibling of a child whose cord blood you banked needs a transplant, then your chances of a match will be far higher than turning to the public. However, the safest bet is to bank the cord blood of all your children, safeguarding them against a number of diseases and ensuring a genetic match if necessary.
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.
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If someone doesn’t have cord blood stored, they will have to rely on stem cells from another source. For that, we can go back to the history of cord blood, which really begins with bone marrow. Bone marrow contains similar although less effective and possibly tainted versions of the same stem cells abundant in cord blood. Scientists performed the first bone marrow stem cell transplant in 1956 between identical twins. It resulted in the complete remission of the one twin’s leukemia.
^ a b c American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Hematology/Oncology; American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Allergy/Immunology; Lubin, BH; Shearer, WT (January 2007). “Cord blood banking for potential future transplantation”. Pediatrics. 119 (1): 165–70. doi:10.1542/peds.2006-2901. PMID 17200285.
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.
If you want the blood stored, after the birth, the doctor clamps the umbilical cord in two places, about 10 inches apart, and cuts the cord, separating mother from baby. Then she inserts a needle and collects at least 40 milliliters of blood from the cord. The blood is sealed in a bag and sent to a lab or cord blood bank for testing and storage. The process only takes a few minutes and is painless for mother and baby.
The other way the body creates more cells is through its stem cells, and stem cells do things a little differently. They undergo what is called asymmetric division, forming not one but two daughter cells: one cell often an exact replica of itself, a new stem cell with a relatively clean slate, and another stem cell that is ready to turn into a specific type of cell. This trait is known as self-renewal and allows stem cells to proliferate, or reproduce rapidly.
Unlike other banks, CBR uses a seamless cryobag for storage. The seamless construction decreases the potential for breakage that can occur in traditional, seamed-plastic storage bags. Prior to storage, each cryobag is placed in a second overwrap layer of plastic, which is hermetically sealed as an extra precaution against possible cross contamination by current and yet unidentified pathogens that may be discovered in the future. CBR stores the stem cells in vaults, called dewars, specially designed for long-term cryostorage. The cord blood units are suspended above a pool of liquid nitrogen that creates a vapor-phase environment kept at minus 196 degrees Celsius. This keeps the units as cold as liquid nitrogen without immersing them in liquid, which can enable cross-contamination. Cryopreserved cord blood stem cells have proven viable after more than 20 years of storage, and research suggests they should remain viable indefinitely.
The cord blood of your baby is an abundant source of stem cells that are genetically related to your baby and your family. Stem cells are dominant cells in the way they contribute to the development of all tissues, organs, and systems in the body.
Potential long-term risks include complications of the pretransplant chemotherapy and radiation therapy, such as infertility (the inability to produce children); cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye, which causes loss of vision); secondary (new) cancers; and damage to the liver, kidneys, lungs, and/or heart.
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.
CBR collection kits have been designed to shield the samples from extreme temperatures (shielding for more than 1 hour at extreme hot and cold). Samples remain at room temperature and are shipped directly to the CBR lab for processing.
Apheresis usually causes minimal discomfort. During apheresis, the person may feel lightheadedness, chills, numbness around the lips, and cramping in the hands. Unlike bone marrow donation, PBSC donation does not require anesthesia. The medication that is given to stimulate the mobilization (release) of stem cells from the marrow into the bloodstream may cause bone and muscle aches, headaches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and/or difficulty sleeping. These side effects generally stop within 2 to 3 days of the last dose of the medication.
Certain public cord blood banks let you mail in your cord blood. You have to decide before the birth if you want to donate your cord blood. If the hospital where you’re delivering doesn’t accept donations, you can contact a lab that offers a mail-in delivery program. After you’ve passed the lab’s screening process, they’ll send you a kit that you can use to package your blood and mail it in, explains Frances Verter, Ph.D., founder and director of Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation (parentsguidecordblood.org), a nonprofit dedicated to educating parents about cord blood donation and cord blood therapists.
The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. The purpose of this is to help with education and create better conversations between patients and their healthcare providers.
Umbilical cord blood is the blood left over in the placenta and in the umbilical cord after the birth of the baby. The cord blood is composed of all the elements found in whole blood. It contains red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma, platelets and is also rich in hematopoietic stem cells. There are several methods for collecting cord blood. The method most commonly used in clinical practice is the “closed technique”, which is similar to standard blood collection techniques. With this method, the technician cannulates the vein of the severed umbilical cord using a needle that is connected to a blood bag, and cord blood flows through the needle into the bag. On average, the closed technique enables collection of about 75 ml of cord blood.
In March 2004, the European Union Group on Ethics (EGE) has issued Opinion No.19 titled Ethical Aspects of Umbilical Cord Blood Banking. The EGE concluded that “[t]he 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. Thus they promise more than they can deliver. The activities of such banks raise serious ethical criticisms.”
As noted earlier, with better matching, there is a greater chance of success and less risk of graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) in any stem cell transplant. With cord blood, the baby’s own cells are always a perfect match and share little risk. When using cord blood across identical twins, there is also a very low chance of GvHD although mutations and biological changes caused by epigenetic factors can occur. Other blood-related family members have a 35%–45% chance of GvHD, and unrelated persons have a 60%–80% chance of suffering from GvHD.
A “tandem transplant” is a type of autologous transplant. This method is being studied in clinical trials for the treatment of several types of cancer, including multiple myeloma and germ cell cancer. During a tandem transplant, a patient receives two sequential courses of high-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant. Typically, the two courses are given several weeks to several months apart. Researchers hope that this method can prevent the cancer from recurring (coming back) at a later time.
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.
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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.
Pro: It gives you that peace of mind that if anything did happen to your child, the doctors would have access to their blood. This could potentially be a great benefit, and you would have no idea what would have happened if it weren’t for this blood.
Because of the invasive procedure required to obtain the bone marrow, scientist continued to look for a better source, which eventually lead to the discovery of similar stem cells in cord blood in 1978. Cord blood was used in its first transplant in 1988, and cord blood has since been shown to be more advantageous than other means of acquiring similar stem cells and immune system cells. This is because umbilical cord blood can be considered naïve and immature compared to other sources. Cord blood has not been exposed to disease or environmental pollutants, and it is more accepting of foreign cells. In this case, inexperience makes it stronger.
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There are two main types of cord blood banks: public and private. Public cord blood banks are usually nonprofit companies that store your donated cord blood for free, to be used for any sick child in another family or for research purposes, so accessing and using your own cord blood is not guaranteed. Private cord blood banks are companies that require a registration fee (plus annual storage fees) for your cord blood, but it is saved specifically for your own family, so you’ll have ready access to it.
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 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.”
Options for Umbilical Cord Blood Banking and Donation—As expectant parents, learn how umbilical cord blood can help others through public donation, family (private) cord blood banking, or directed donation for a biological sibling.
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.
Most of the diseases on the proven treatment list are inherited genetic diseases. Typically, a child with a genetic disease would require cord blood unit from a sibling or an unrelated donor. Having a sibling cord blood unit can be a great advantage as research shows that treatments using cord blood from a family member are about twice as successful as treatments using cord blood from a non-relative.9a, 17
Current research aims to answer these questions in order to establish whether safe and effective treatments for non-blood diseases could be developed in the future using cord blood. An early clinical trial investigating cord blood treatment of childhood type 1 diabetes was unsuccessful. Other very early stage clinical trials are now exploring the use of cord blood transplants to treat children with brain disorders such as cerebral palsy or traumatic brain injury. However, such trials have not yet shown any positive effects and most scientists believe much more laboratory research is needed to understand how cord blood cells behave and whether they may be useful in these kinds of treatments
Osteopetrosis is a genetic disease, so this means that doctors could use a sibling’s cord blood cells to treat Anthony, but they cannot use his own cells because the disease is in every cell in his body. In fact, a majority of the diseases listed in private banking firms’ marketing material as treatable with stem cells are genetic diseases.
Prior to freezing the cells, samples are taken for quality testing. Banks measure the number of cells that are positive for the CD34 marker, a protein that is used to estimate the number of blood-forming stem cells present. Typical cost, $150 to $200 per unit. They also measure the number of nucleated cells, another measure of stem cells, both before and after processing to determine the cell recovery rate. Typical expense, $35 per unit. A portion of the sample is submitted to check that there is no bacterial or fungal contamination. Typical expense, $75 per unit. Public banks will also check the ability of the sample to grow new cells by taking a culture called the CFU assay. Typical expense, $200 to $250 per unit.
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.
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.
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.
Cord tissue use is still in early research stages, and there is no guarantee that treatments using cord tissue will be available in the future. Cord tissue is stored whole. Additional processing prior to use will be required to extract and prepare any of the multiple cell types from cryopreserved cord tissue. Cbr Systems, Inc.’s activities for New York State residents are limited to collection of umbilical cord tissue and long-term storage of umbilical cord–derived stem cells. Cbr Systems, Inc.’s possession of a New York State license for such collection and long-term storage does not indicate approval or endorsement of possible future uses or future suitability of these cells.
Preserving stem cells does not guarantee that the saved stem cells will be applicable for every situation. Ultimate use will be determined by a physician. Please note: Americord Registry’s activities are limited to collection of umbilical cord tissue from autologous donors. Americord Registry’s possession of a New York State license for such collection does not indicate approval or endorsement of possible future uses or future suitability of cells derived from umbilical cord tissue.
Some financial aid is available for families that opt for private cord blood banking. If you have a sick child who could benefit from umbilical cord blood, some cord blood banks offer programs in which the bank will cover free cord blood processing and storage if the baby has a biological sibling with certain diseases. Certain insurance companies may pitch in if that sibling needs to be treated with the cord blood in the near future, Dr. Verter says.
If everyone donated cord blood to public registries for the ‘common good’ this would increase the chances of someone benefiting from a double cord blood transplant. This far outweights the actual probability of the person who donated the sample being able to usefully use it for themself.
There has been considerable debate about the ethical and practical implications of commercial versus public banking. The main arguments against commercial banking have to do with questions about how likely it is that the cord blood will be used by an individual child, a sibling or a family member; the existence of several well-established alternatives to cord blood transplantation and the lack of scientific evidence that cord blood may be used to treat non-blood diseases (such as diabetes and Parkinson’s disease). In some cases patients may not be able to receive their own cord blood, as the cells may already contain the genetic changes that predispose them to disease.
With allogeneic transplants, GVHD sometimes develops when white blood cells from the donor (the graft) identify cells in the patient’s body (the host) as foreign and attack them. The most commonly damaged organs are the skin, liver, and intestines. This complication can develop within a few weeks of the transplant (acute GVHD) or much later (chronic GVHD). To prevent this complication, the patient may receive medications that suppress the immune system. Additionally, the donated stem cells can be treated to remove the white blood cells that cause GVHD in a process called “T-cell depletion.” If GVHD develops, it can be very serious and is treated with steroids or other immunosuppressive agents. GVHD can be difficult to treat, but some studies suggest that patients with leukemia who develop GVHD are less likely to have the cancer come back. Clinical trials are being conducted to find ways to prevent and treat GVHD.
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.
In terms of performance, our PrepaCyte-CB processing method has taken the lead. PrepaCyte-CB greatly improves on parents’ returns on investment because it yields the highest number of stem cells while showing the greatest reduction in red blood cells.1–4 Clinical transplant data show that cord blood processed with PrepaCyte-CB engrafts more quickly than other processing methods.7 This means patients may start feeling better more quickly, may spend less time in the hospital and are less likely to suffer from an infection. The ability to get better more quickly and a reduced chance of infection can prove vital in certain cases. Learn more about PrepaCyte®-CB here.
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.