What Is Cord Blood?
Cord blood is the blood that remains in the placenta after birth. It can be removed very quickly after the umbilical cord is cut. Until recently, the blood was regarded as medical waste and was promptly discarded after birth. Due to recent studies, there is now scientific evidence backing the genetic and healing value of the stem cells in cord blood. These stem cells may be cryopreserved for later use or donated for medical therapies.
How is Cord Blood Collected?
Cord blood is extracted from the umbilical cord directly after childbirth. The process is painless and quick for both mother and child. The umbilical cord is simply clamped and cut as normal. The doctor will insert a needle into the umbilical vein on the cord attached to the placenta to drain blood into a storage bag. The preserved blood is then sent directly to the cord bank that was selected prior to the birth. The process takes less than ten minutes, yet provides lifetime benefits.
What Is Cord Blood Banking?
Cord blood banking is the process of collecting and safely storing a newborn’s umbilical cord blood stem cells in order to donate the stem cells to a patient in need or preserve the cells in a private cord blood bank.
The cord blood bank uses a process called cryopreservation to freeze the blood at a controlled level for long-term storage. This process is also used in the freezing of human gametes and embryos for reproduction treatments.
Over one million units of cord blood are stored in United States cord blood banks. The large majority is stored nationwide is for private, family use.
Why Collect Stem Cells from Newborns?
Cord blood stem cells are as biologically young as possible, which makes them exponentially more adaptable. Newborn cells, compared to embryonic or adult cells, show a greater number of capabilities in terms of medical treatment. These stem cells are different from the stem cells obtained from a child or adult due to their ability to grow into blood cells and immune system cells. Additionally, these cells have a high proliferation capacity and present a low risk for tumor formation.
How Are Cord Blood Stem Cells Used Today?
Today, cord blood is frequently used as a substitute for bone marrow in stem cell transplants. Over 80 diseases have been treated through this process including many types of cancer and genetic diseases without a medical treatment.
Scientists are researching the benefits of privately stored cord blood stem cells to treat adults later in life. Researchers believe that adult patients with cancer may benefit from a transplant of their own cord blood stem cells that were collected at birth. These cells, stored until needed, would then be accessible for a variety of treatments.
What Diseases Can be Treated?
Effective cord blood stem cell treatments have eradicated leukemia, aplastic anemia, Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The stem cells found in cord blood have been used to treat a variety of conditions. Research on their full potential is ongoing. Blood disorders, cancers, immune disorders and metabolic disorders have been eradicated in patients through effective stem cell treatments.
Currently, there are studies in the works to determine the effectiveness of the regenerative newborn stem cell to treat conditions that have no present cure. Treatments for autism, cerebral palsy and traumatic brain injuries are being studied in the clinical setting to determine how the cord blood stem cell can be most efficient.
Looking to the future, there are studies in progress that are examining emerging therapies for tissue regeneration, injury treatment and neurological treatment.
Cord blood donations are highly beneficial to minority patients, as there is a shortage of donors nationwide that align with minority blood type. Even less are a direct match. Cord blood does not have to be matched as closely as stem cells from a bone marrow donor. Since the cell is in its infancy it can match easier, resulting in a higher number of successful treatments.
Cord blood donated to a public bank has provided hope to countless patients who did not have the option of a matching donor in their family. About 70% of patients in need of a stem cell transplant do not have an immediate family member who is a donor match. Since cord blood does not have to be genetically matched — a 67% match with cord blood is equivalent to a 100% donor match — the cord blood can be used to treat more people.
Cost of Cord Blood Banking
Family cord blood banks charge a processing fee that ranges from $1,300 to $3,000 to initially store the unit. This depends if you plan to only store cord blood, or decide to bank additional tissue.
Annual storage costs stay at around $100 to $175, depending on blood bank. Payment plans are available, and some blood banks offer an all-inclusive price to store your cord blood for 20-25 years. Some banks also offer discounts for families who store cord blood from multiple children. There are military discounts available as well.
How Will Private Cord Blood Banks Benefit Families?
Children who have a stored supply of their own cord blood can benefit later in life. Their medical options increase exponentially through the potential for healing and new research that has just begun to discover all the ways cord blood can align with treatments. Cord blood in family banks can be used for an immediate relative, which has proven successful in a variety of treatments.
The United States government has enacted cord blood donation acts that support the research of new treatments and public donation services. The Stem Cell Acts of 2005 and 2010 both work to assist patients with life-threatening diseases to locate cord blood transplants. The National Cord Blood Inventory collects and stores cord blood units specifically for patients without a matching donor. As research continues, these banks and inventory centers will continue to store and distribute cord blood for research and treatment purposes.
Donating Cord Blood
Donating to a public bank is free, and can be a lifesaving match for a patient suffering from a condition in which they have no donor or match in their family. The process is painless and quick, as there are no side effects or pain involved for mother or child. The donation of cord blood is highly valuable due to the huge number of cancer patients who lack a donor and are depending on stem cell treatment for a cure.
Public cord banks are often non-profit organizations. The public bank must meet strict standards in order to accept and distribute donated cord blood. The hospital will require a mother to sign up by the 34th week of pregnancy in order for them to prepare eligibility and health history for donation approval. Once approved, the hospital will often work directly with the public cord bank to process the donation and expedite the cord blood to the facility.
The medical benefits behind cord blood stem cell treatment has proven its promise and value in healthcare. The donations to public cord blood banks have led to countless success stories, proving that these donations are vital to continue researching the far-reaching benefits of the cord blood stem cell.