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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.
When you bank your child’s cord blood with ViaCord, your child will have access to stem cells that are a perfect genetic match. Some cancers like neuroblastoma are autologous treatments. Ongoing regenerative medicine clinical trials are using a child’s own stem cells for conditions like autism and cerebral palsy. 104, 109 To date, of the 400+ families that have used their cord blood 44% were for regenerative medicine research.
Cord blood in public banks is available to unrelated patients who need haematopoietic stem cell transplants. Some banks, such as the NHS bank in the UK, also collect and store umbilical cord blood from children born into families affected by or at risk of a disease for which haematopoietic stem cell transplants may be necessary – either for the child, a sibling or a family member. It is also possible to pay to store cord blood in a private bank for use by your own family only.
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.
“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.
Similar to transplantation, the main disadvantage is the limited number of cells that can be procured from a single umbilical cord. Different ways of growing and multiplying HSCs in culture are currently being investigated. Once this barrier is overcome, HSCs could be used to create “universal donor” stem cells as well as specific types of red or white blood cells. Immunologic rejection is a possibility, as with any stem cell transplant. HSCs that are genetically modified are susceptible to cancerous formation and may not migrate (home) to the appropriate tissue and actively divide. The longevity of cord blood HSCs is also unknown.
A limitation of cord blood is that it contains fewer HSCs than a bone marrow donation does, meaning adult patients often require two volumes of cord blood for treatments. Researchers are studying ways to expand the number of HSCs from cord blood in labs so that a single cord blood donation could supply enough cells for one or more HSC transplants.
Cord blood banking means preserving the newborn stem cells found in the blood of the umbilical cord and the placenta. After a baby is born, and even after delayed cord clamping, there is blood remaining in the umbilical cord and placenta that holds valuable newborn stem cells. Parents have a choice between donating cord blood to a public bank for free, or paying to store it for their family in a private bank. Cord blood banking includes the whole process from collection through storage of newborn stem cells for future medical purposes.
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.
Use of adult bone marrow-derived stem cells brought to the forefront, the limitations that these types of cells are thought to have. Specifically, scientific dogma states that adult-type stem cells have limited capacity to expand in vitro. Initial work indicated that bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (bmMSCs) become senescent (cease to divide in vitro) by passage 6–10. Furthermore, bone marrow-derived stem cells are reported to be more difficult to extract from the marrow cavity in normal aging because the red marrow space changes to a yellow marrow (fat-filled) as a consequence of aging. Optimal stem cell aspirates from the marrow are found in young donors (e.g., 18–19 yr of age; 9a). One would think that the fat-derived MSCs would be a useful alternative to the marrow-derived MSCs for autologous grafting in aged individuals. We do not know whether this will be the case. It is known that fat-derived MSCs are more rare than bmMSCs. Therefore, extraction and expansion may be required prior to therapeutic use. It is generally thought that stem cells derived from “younger” tissues, for example, tissues derived from the early embryo or fetus, would have longer telomeres and have the capacity for extended expansion in culture prior to becoming senescent. There are some data to support this contention (10).
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.
“One of the wonderful things about cord blood is that unlike bone marrow, you don’t always need a perfect match in order for it to work,” says Dr. Kurtzberg, who performed the first unrelated cord-blood transplant in the U.S. And it was a public donation that ultimately saved Anthony Dones. Within a week of starting a search, the National Cord Blood Program, a public bank operated by the New York Blood Center, found a “close enough” match. Had the now-3-year-old been forced to rely on a bone-marrow match, he might still be waiting.
Donating cord blood can help families and researchers. If a mother qualifies, the umbilical cord processing and storage is free, and can protect a child from over 80 different diseases. In the next several years, researchers will find new ways to treat even more conditions.
Several groups have isolated MSC-like cells from the umbilical cord tissues or blood and have reported that those cells may express neural markers when differentiated (26,32), and differentiate into neural cells upon transplantation into rat brain. This is not too surprising, because adult bone marrow-derived MSCs injected into fetal rat brain engrafted, differentiated along neural-like lineages, and survived into the postnatal period (34). Similarly, Jiang et al. (19) demonstrated convincingly that bone marrow-derived MAPCs could be differentiated in vitro to become cells with electrophysiological properties of neurons. Increasingly, reports are indicating that bone marrow-derived cells may differentiate, first to neurospheres and then to neurons with proper neuronal electrophysiological characteristics (35,36).
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.
Cord blood, which is harvested from the umbilical cord right after a baby is born, is marketed as a treatment for diseases such as leukemia and sickle cell disease, and as a potential source of cells for regenerative medicine – a cutting-edge field of medicine studying how to repair tissues damaged by everything from heart disease to cerebral palsy.
The Celebration Stem Cell Centre (CSCC), offers both public donation and private “family banking” of umbilical cord blood. All cord blood collections are processed according to the highest standards in the industry in a new, state-of-the art facility located in Gilbert, Arizona. The public cord blood donation program is funded by the private “family banking” program and private philanthropy.
Meet Dylan. Diagnosed with leukemia at just 8 weeks old, he received a life-saving cord blood transplant at 6 months old. Today, Dylan is growing up strong, going to school, travelling with his family and just having fun being a kid!
Operating both a family and public bank, CORD:USE cord blood units have been used in more transplants in the past 9 years than the two largest family cord blood banks have been involved in over their combined past 43 years of business2,3.
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.
Mesenchymal cells have been reported to act as supporting cells that promote the expansion of other stem cell types. For example, MSCs and MSC-like cells support ex vivo expansion of hematopoietic stem cells (28,69–71). When co-grafted, MSCs and MSC-like cells support in vivo engraftment of hematopoietic stem cells, too (23,43,72). This work suggests that MSCs from a variety of sources, including umbilical cord, may facilitate engraftment of hematopoietic stem cells. This addresses two significant problems found in umbilical cord blood transplantation: (1) getting enough cells to engraft an adult and (2) increasing the speed of engraftment (12,73). Theoretically, cografting or ex vivo expansion may enable transplantation of cord blood units into larger patients and speed the engraftment in other patients.
Your child’s cord blood will also be tested for contamination. Staff at the lab will test the unit, along with a blood sample from the mother, and check for any possible problems. Contamination may happen in the hospital room or during travel to the lab. If the cells are contaminated, they may still be used in a clinical trial.
Cord blood contains mesenchymal stem cells but is much more abundant in hematopoietic stem cells. Cord tissue, on the other hand, contains some hematopoietic stem cells but is much richer in mesenchymal stem cells. Cord tissue, or Wharton’s jelly, is the protective layer that covers the umbilical cord’s vein and other vessels. Its MSCs can become a host of cells including those found in the nervous system, sensory organs, circulatory tissues, skin, bone, cartilage, and more. MSCs are currently undergoing clinical trials for sports injuries, heart and kidney disease, ALS, wound healing and autoimmune disease. As with cord blood, cord tissue is easily collected at the type of birth and holds great potential in regenerative medicine. Learn more about cord tissue banking here.
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Several research teams have reported studies in animals suggesting that cord blood can repair tissues other than blood, in diseases ranging from heart attacks to strokes. These findings are controversial: scientists often cannot reproduce such results and it is not clear HOW cord blood may be having such effects. When beneficial effects are observed they may be very slight and not significant enough to be useful for developing treatments. If there are positive effects, they might be explained not by cord blood cells making nerve or heart cells, but by the cells in the cord blood releasing substances that help the body repair damage.