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Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Volume 16, Number 1, Spring 2009 issue of Dignitas, the Center’s quarterly publication. Subscriptions to Dignitas are available to CBHD Members. To learn more about the benefits of becoming a member click here.
Throughout pregnancy your baby’s umbilical nurtures life. It’s carries oxygen rich cells and nutrients from your placenta to your baby, and then allows your baby to pump deoxygenated and nutrient depleted blood back to your placenta. This constant exchange is protected by a special type of tissue that acts like a cushion, preventing twisting and compression to ensure that the cord blood flow remains steady and constant.
Stem cells have been isolated from virtually all of life’s stages. That is, stem cells have been isolated from the inner cell mass of 5-d-old embryos as well as collected from the olfactory epithelium of senior citizens. Human embryo-derived stem cells and stem cells derived from human fetal tissues have raised moral/ethical concerns that have yet to be adequately discussed and addressed by our society. These society level concerns impact the research effort directly by way of the federally mandated support limitations, blue ribbon panel inquiries, ethical debates, lawsuits, and political posturing. The bottom line is that the United States lacks clear, consistent research goals and unified leadership regarding embryonic stem cell research; this is reflected in the state-to-state differences in legislation and support for embryonic stem cell research. These issues are huge and require serious work. They are beyond the scope of this review.
Umbilical cord blood contains a large amount of stem cells. If parents sign up for personalized storage or donation, medical staff will remove stem cells from the umbilical cord and placenta. The blood is then cryogenically frozen, and put into long-term storage.
^ a b Ballen, KK; Gluckman, E; Broxmeyer, HE (25 July 2013). “Umbilical cord blood transplantation: the first 25 years and beyond”. Blood. 122 (4): 491–8. doi:10.1182/blood-2013-02-453175. PMC 3952633 . PMID 23673863.
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.
While donating cord blood is honorable, there is a lot people do not know about the public option. Most public cord blood banks have a limited number of collection sites, and they only retain a small number of collections because of volume and other criteria that must be met. Once cord blood is donated, it is highly unlikely that the donation can ever be attained by the donor or his or her family if the need arises. In addition, it may be hard to find another viable match from what is publically available. While donating is free, retreiving a cord blood sample from a public cord blood bank is not and pales in comparison to the overall cost of privately banking cord blood. These are just some of the reasons why privately banking cord blood may be a better option for some families.
So what does CBR do? Your collected sample is shipped to our lab where our lab technicians perform quality tests. We save the cord blood stem cells and let you know when we have securely stored your sample until you need them.
Cord blood does not have to be as closely matched as bone marrow or peripheral blood transplants. Bone marrow transplants typically require a 6/6 HLA match. While a closely matched cord blood transplant is preferable, cord blood has been transplanted successfully with as few as 3/6 matches. For patients with uncommon tissue types, cord blood may be an option if a suitable adult donor cannot be found. Since cord blood is cryogenically preserved and stored, it is more readily available than bone marrow or peripheral blood from an unrelated donor, allowing transplants to take place within a shorter period of time. It takes approximately two weeks to locate, transfer, and thaw a preserved cord blood unit. Finding a suitable bone marrow donor typically takes at least two months.
Umbilical cord blood is useful for research. For example, researchers are investigating ways to grow and multiply haematopoietic (blood) stem cells from cord blood so that they can be used in more types of treatments and for adult patients as well as children. Cord blood can also be donated altruistically for clinical use. Since 1989, umbilical cord blood transplants have been used to treat children who suffer from leukaemia, anaemias and other blood diseases.
While many diseases can be treated with a cord blood transplant, most require stem cells from another donor (allogeneic). Cord blood cells taken from the patient (autologous) typically contain the same defect or precancerous cells that caused the patient to need the transplant in the first place. Most medical professionals believe the chance that cord blood banking will be utilized by the patient or a close relative is relatively low. Estimates range from 1 out of 1,000 to 1 out of 200,000. From these estimates, privately stored cord blood is not likely to be utilized by the average family. The American Academy of Pediatrics has discouraged cord blood banking for self-use, since most diseases requiring stem cell transplants are already present in the cord blood stem cells. Additionally, a recent study published in Pediatrics indicates that few transplants have been performed using privately stored cord blood. From the responses of 93 transplant physicians, in only 50 cases was privately banked blood used. In 9 of these cases the cord blood was transplanted back into the donor patient (autologous transplant). One of the main selling points of private cord blood banks is the possibility of a future autologous transplant.
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.
Stem cells are amazingly powerful. They have the ability to divide and renew themselves and are capable turning into specific types of specialized cells – like blood or nerve. After all, these are the cells responsible for the development of your baby’s organs, tissue and immune system
In this way, cord blood offers a useful alternative to bone marrow transplants for some patients. It is easier to collect than bone marrow and can be stored frozen until it is needed. It also seems to be less likely than bone marrow to cause immune rejection or complications such as Graft versus Host Disease. This means that cord blood does not need to be as perfectly matched to the patient as bone marrow (though some matching is still necessary).
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.
Sometimes, not enough cord blood can be collected. This problem can occur if the baby is preterm or if it is decided to delay clamping of the umbilical cord. It also can happen for no apparent reason. If an emergency occurs during delivery, priority is given to caring for you and your baby over collecting cord blood.
Private cord blood banks allow families to store cord blood stem cells for themselves and their loved ones. They are privately funded, and typically charge a first-year processing fee that ranges from about $1,400 to $2,300, plus annual storage costs of about $115 to $175. (Americord offers cord blood banking for a one-time fee of $3,499, which includes 20 years of storage). The pros and cons of private cord blood banking are listed below.
For families who wish to donate cord blood to a public bank, the biggest hurdle may be finding a nearby hospital that collects cord blood for donation. Most public banks only work with select hospitals in their community. In the U.S., there are only about 200 hospitals that collect cord blood donations. Find out if there is a donation hospital near you.
And as Victor and Tracey Dones learned, a child’s own cord blood can’t always be used to treat him, even when he’s young. “Childhood leukemia is one of the diseases private banks like to play up, but most kids with leukemia are cured with chemotherapy alone. If a transplant is needed, we wouldn’t use a child’s tainted cord blood,” Dr. Kurtzberg says.
During the harvesting procedure, doctors use a catheter to draw out blood. The blood moves through a machine, which separates stem cells and allows these cells to be put into storage. This process takes a few hours, and may be repeated over several days in order for doctors to get enough stem cells.
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.
Experts believe that umbilical cord blood is an important source of blood stem cells and expect that its full potential for treatment of blood disorders is yet to be revealed. Other types of stem cell such as induced pluripotent stem cells may prove to be better suited to treating non-blood-related diseases, but this question can only be answered by further research.
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.
Any and all uses of stem cells must be at the direction of a treating physician, who will determine if they are applicable and suitable, for treatment of the condition. Additionally, CariCord makes no guarantee that any treatments being used in research, clinical trials, or any experimental procedures or treatments, for cellular therapy or regenerative medicine, will be available or approved in the future.
When a donor signs up with a public bank, the mother must pass a health screening and sign a consent form. After that, the bank processes the application, which makes last-minute donations impossible. However, there are a small number of banks that accept late donor requests.
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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.
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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.
There are also hundreds of human clinical trials being performed using cord blood to treat conditions and diseases that affect millions of people in the U.S. alone. These trials involve regenerative medicine and other applications for the treatment of Diabetes, Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Strokes, Neonatal & Pediatric Brain Injury, Alzheimer’s & Spinal Cord Injury to name a few (see www.clinicaltrials.gov). The existence of clinical trials does not guarantee that cord blood will be successful in the treatment of those diseases in the future. While you can’t plan on health issues your child may face, you can have possible treatment options.
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.
Sign a consent form. While there is a chance of the donor family using their child’s cord blood, by signing the consent form, you’re giving the public bank rights to your child’s blood. They can use it as a treatment for any patient, unless your family needs the stem cells first.
Just like other blood donations, there is no cost to the donor of cord blood. If you do not choose to store your baby’s blood, please consider donating it. Your donation could make a difference in someone else’s life.
Private (commercial) cord banks will store the donated blood for use by the donor and family members only. They can be expensive. These banks charge a fee for processing and an annual fee for storage.
^ Jump up to: a b c d e f Juric, MK; et al. (9 November 2016). “Milestones of Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation – From First Human Studies to Current Developments”. Frontiers in Immunology. 7: 470. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2016.00470. PMC 5101209 . PMID 27881982.
Though uses of cord blood beyond blood and immunological disorders is speculative, some research has been done in other areas. Any such potential beyond blood and immunological uses is limited by the fact that cord cells are hematopoietic stem cells (which can differentiate only into blood cells), and not pluripotent stem cells (such as embryonic stem cells, which can differentiate into any type of tissue). Cord blood has been studied as a treatment for diabetes. However, apart from blood disorders, the use of cord blood for other diseases is not in routine clinical use and remains a major challenge for the stem cell community.
Access Immediately available once a match is confirmed. Search and match process may take weeks or months; ultimately, a match may not be located. Immediately available upon HLA match May take weeks or months; no match may be found
2 – Cbr, cord blood registry, Cbr families’ stem cell units used to date. [Available at http://www.cordblood.com/best-cord-blood-bank/stem-cell-therapy/advancing-stem-cell-therapies (accessed Oct 13, 2015)].
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.
As cord blood is inter-related to cord blood banking, it is often a catch-all term used for the various cells that are stored. It may be surprising for some parents to learn that stored cord blood contains little of what people think of as “blood,” as the red blood cells (RBCs) can actually be detrimental to a cord blood treatment. (As we’ll discuss later, one of the chief goals of cord blood processing is to greatly reduce the volume of red blood cells in any cord blood collection.)
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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.
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.
If you are interested in donating cord blood to a public bank and do not have access to a hospital that accepts cord blood donations, you can contact a lab that offers a mail-in program. After you’ve passed the lab’s eligibility screening process, they’ll send you a kit that you can use to package and mail in your cord blood.2
/en/public-bankingM.D. Anderson hospital has the largest stem cell transplantation program in the world, and in April 2005 they established a public cord blood bank that is accredited under the international FACT/Netcord standards.