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This is great news for families who have chosen to bank their newborn’s blood because someone in the family, typically a sibling, is suffering from a genetic disease or disorder, that cord blood is currently being used to treat.
Umbilical cord blood contains haematopoietic (blood) stem cells. These cells are able to make the different types of cell in the blood – red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Haematopoietic stem cells, purified from bone marrow or blood, have long been used in stem cell treatments for leukaemia, blood and bone marrow disorders, cancer (when chemotherapy is used) and immune deficiencies.
A bone marrow or cord blood transplant replaces diseased blood-forming cells with healthy cells. Cells for a transplant can come from the marrow of a donor or from the blood of the umbilical cord collected after a baby is born. Sometimes special qualities of umbilical cord blood make it a better choice of blood-forming cells for transplant.
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.
Cord blood (short for umbilical cord blood) is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta post-delivery. At or near term, there is a maternal–fetal transfer of cells to boost the immune systems of both the mother and baby in preparation for labor. This makes cord blood at the time of delivery a rich source of stem cells and other cells of the immune system. Cord blood banking is the process of collecting the cord blood and extracting and cryogenically freezing its stem cells and other cells of the immune system for potential future medical use.
* Disclaimer: Banking cord blood does not guarantee that treatment will work and only a doctor can determine when it can be used. Cord tissue stem cells are not approved for use in treatment, but research is ongoing.
The range of diseases that doctors can treat with cord blood is vast. More than 80 diseases are currently known to respond to cord blood stem cells transplants and, as more are studied and tested, that number is sure to grow.
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.
A stem cell has the potential to become one of many different types of cells. Stem cells are unique cells: They have the ability to become many different types of cells, and they can replicate rapidly. Stem cells play a huge part in the body’s healing process, and the introduction of new stem cells has always showed great promise in the treatment of many conditions. It wasn’t until we found out where and how to isolate these cells that we started using them for transplants. Although a person’s own stem cells are always 100 percent compatible, there are risks in using someone else’s stem cells, especially if the donor and recipient are not immediately related. The discovery of certain markers allows us to see how compatible a donor’s and host’s cells will be. The relatively recent discovery of stem cells in the umbilical cord’s blood has proven advantageous over acquiring stem cells from other sources. Researchers are currently conducting clinical trials with stem cells, adding to the growing list of 80 diseases which they can treat.
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.
As noted, there are different ways to process cord blood, and although the type of processing method doesn’t always enter the conversation on cord blood banking, it is a big part of the purity of any cord blood collection. Red blood cells can have a negative impact on a cord blood transfusion. In addition, there is a certain number of stem cells that need to be present in order for the cord blood to be effective in disease treatment. Each processing method has the ability to better reduce the number of RBCs and capture more stem cells. Some processing methods like AutoXpress and Sepax are automated to ensure a level of consistency across all collections. HES is preferred by some banks because it was the original processing method used by most banks and it has a proven track record. You can read more about the different cord blood processing methods here.
^ 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.
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.
“This is a medical service that has to be done when your baby’s cells arrive and you certainly want them to be handled by good equipment and good technicians,” says Frances Verter, Ph.D., founder and director of Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to educating parents about cord blood donation and cord blood therapists. “It’s just not going to be cheap.” Although the American Academy of Pediatrics (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 choose to bank cord blood, the AAP recommends public cord blood banking (instead of private) to reduce costs.
The body has two ways to create more cells. The first is usually taught in middle school science. Known as cell division, it’s where a cell replicates within its membrane before dividing into two identical cells. Cells do this as needed for regeneration, which we will touch on in a second.
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).
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.
There is not one right answer. Your family’s medical history and personal preferences will play a major role in this decision process. However, we can help you make sense of the available options. Continue to follow our guide on cord blood to understand what is the best choice for your family.
Students who register to donate blood three or more times during their high school career earn a Red Cord to wear during graduation events. Seniors must complete the requirement by May 15 (or by the date of their school’s final blood drive of the year, whichever is later).
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.
Stem cells are able to transform into other types of cells in the body to create new growth and development. They are also the building blocks of the immune system. The transformation of these cells provides doctors with a way to treat leukemia and some inherited health disorders.
Once you arrive at the hospital, all you need to worry about is having a safe birth. There are a few minor things that you and your family must remember at the hospital, but your priority should be birth and spending time with your newborn.
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.
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.
It’s now possible to preserve up to twice the number of stem cells – exclusively available through cord blood banking with Americord®. With Cord Blood 2.0™, you now have the opportunity to treat your child into adolescence and even adulthood. Learn more >
The procedure for peripheral blood harvesting is easier on the patient than a bone marrow transplant, and stem cell transplants are faster. However, the chances for graft-versus-host disease, where donated cells attack the patient’s body, are much higher after a peripheral blood transplant.
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.
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.
Cord tissue is rich in a completely different type of stem cell. With over fifty clinical trials currently in progress, researchers agree that banking cord tissue is the future of stem cell banking. Learn more >
^ Caseiro, AR; Pereira, T; Ivanova, G; Luís, AL; Maurício, AC (2016). “Neuromuscular Regeneration: Perspective on the Application of Mesenchymal Stem Cells and Their Secretion Products”. Stem Cells International. 2016: 9756973. doi:10.1155/2016/9756973. PMC 4736584 . PMID 26880998.
Public cord blood banks store cord blood for allogenic transplants. They do not charge to store cord blood. The stem cells in the donated cord blood can be used by anyone who matches. Some public banks will store cord blood for directed donation if you have a family member who has a disease that could potentially be treated with stem cells.
Today, many conditions may be treatable with cord blood as part of a stem cell transplant, including various cancers and blood, immune, and metabolic disorders. Preserving these cells now may provide your family potential treatment options in the future.