The term “cord blood” is used for the blood remaining in the umbilical cord and the placenta after the birth of a baby. Cord Blood contains stem cells that can grow into blood and immune system cells, as well as other types of cells. Today cord blood is often used as a substitute for bone marrow in stem cell transplants. There are over 80 diseases treated this way, including cancers, blood disorders, genetic and metabolic diseases.
There are so many things to think about when you have a child. One of them is the blood from your baby’s umbilical cord (which connects the baby to the mother while in the womb). It used to be thrown away at birth, but now, many parents store the blood for the future health of their child. Should you do it?
In the public arena there has been much discussion on the benefits of for-profit private cord blood banking over public banking. Numerous for-profit companies offer new parents the option of collecting and storing cord blood for future use by the donor infant, siblings, or other family members. Parents may choose to bank cord blood if they have a family history of a particular disease or disorder, or as a means of “biological insurance” in case their child or family member develops a medical condition or becomes injured requiring a transplant.
Bone marrow and similar sources often requires an invasive, surgical procedure and one’s own stem cells may already have become diseased, which means the patient will have to find matching stem cells from another family member or unrelated donor. This will increase the risk of GvHD. In addition, finding an unrelated matched donor can be difficult, and once a match is ascertained, it may take valuable weeks, even months, to retrieve. Learn more about why cord blood is preferred to the next best source, bone marrow.
While cord-blood companies herald the possible future treatments of many adult diseases with stem cells, they rarely mention a key issue. Researchers have greater hopes for the potential of embryonic stem cells, which are thought to have the ability to develop into many different types of cells. It is not known whether the stem cells in cord blood have that ability; until recently, it was thought that they (like those in bone marrow) could only regenerate blood and immune cells.
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Companies throughout Europe also offer commercial (private) banking of umbilical cord blood. A baby’s cord blood is stored in case they or a family member develop a condition that could be treated by a cord blood transplant. Typically, companies charge an upfront collection fee plus an annual storage fee.
Becoming a parent is a life-changing moment full of promise, joy and a natural share of anxiety. For parents of a sick child, those worries are more intense – especially if that child needs a stem cell transplant to survive. You have the power to Give Life to patients in Canada and around the world.
If you make a donation to a public cord blood bank, you can’t reserve it for your family, so it may not be available for your future use. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and American Medical Association (AMA) recommend public cord blood banking over private cord blood banking. Here’s why:
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.
Stem cell transplant using an individual’s own cord blood (called an autologous transplant) cannot be used for genetic disorders such as sickle cell disease and thalassemia, because the genetic mutations which cause these disorders are present in the baby’s cord blood. Other diseases that are treated with stem cell transplant, such as leukemia, may also already be present in a baby’s cord blood.
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.
The stem cells from your baby’s cord blood may also be effective in treating certain diseases or conditions of a parent or sibling. Cord blood stem cells have similar ability to treat disease as bone marrow but with significantly less rejection.
Cord blood donation doesn’t cost anything for parents. Public cord blood banks pay for everything which includes the collection, testing, and storing of umbilical cord blood. This means that cord blood donation is not possible in every hospital.
After birth, your baby no longer needs the umbilical cord or placenta. But the blood that remains could be a lifesaver for a patient who needs it, including a member of your own family. That’s because this blood is rich with blood-forming stem cells. As with bone marrow transplants, these cells can be transplanted and help save the lives of patients with leukemia or other life-threatening diseases.
The Leading the Way LifeSaving Ambassadors Club is a recognition program honoring sponsor groups for outstanding performance in reaching or exceeding blood drive collections goals. CBC presents a Leading the Way plaque to winning sponsors on an annual basis. The award is based on three levels of achievement:
In 2007, the AAP issued a revised cord-blood-banking policy, that discourages private banks for families who aren’t already facing a health crisis. “These banks prey on parents’ fears of the unknown, and there’s no scientific basis for a number of medical claims they make,” says Bertram Lubin, MD, president and director of medical research for Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, and coauthor for the AAP’s 2006 cord-blood-banking committee.
Like any insurance, cord-blood banking isn’t cheap. Banks initially charge from $1,000 to $2,000 to collect and process the stem-cell units, which are stored for a family’s exclusive use. When you factor in additional costs for shipping (about $150 for a medical courier), the doctor’s collection fee (prices can range from $150 to $500), and annual storage fees averaging $100 per year for 18 years, parents can expect to pay up to $4,000 in expenses not covered by insurance.
Medical staff at the public cord blood bank will check to see if you can donate. If you have had a disease that can be given to another person through blood-forming cells, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or HIV (the AIDS virus), you will likely not be able to donate. However, other medical reasons may still allow you to donate, for example, hepatitis A or diabetes only during your pregnancy (gestational diabetes). The staff at the public cord blood bank will tell you.
Georgia Regents University is conducting an FDA-regulated phase I/II clinical trial to assess whether an infusion of autologous stem cells derived from their own cord blood can improve the quality of life for children with cerebral palsy.
Stem cell transplants from a related family member are less likely to be rejected, therefore having your baby’s stem cells available makes it less likely you would have to search for an unrelated donor who is a match
The Cord Blood Registry (CBR) is unique, because it is currently the world’s largest cord blood bank, with over a half-million cord blood and cord tissue units stored to date. This is substantially more than its nearest competitor, ViaCord, which has 350,000 units stored. It was recently acquired by pharmaceutical giant, AMAG Pharmaceuticals, for $700 million in June 2015.
Clearly, it is advantageous to save cord blood stem cells, but it can be confusing to decide where to store them. There are currently two options: public cord blood banks and private cord blood banks. Public and private banks serve very different purposes, and it is important to know which type of bank would be more beneficial to you and your family.
^ Li, T; Xia, M; Gao, Y; Chen, Y; Xu, Y (2015). “Human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells: an overview of their potential in cell-based therapy”. Expert Opinion on Biological Therapy. 15 (9): 1293–306. doi:10.1517/14712598.2015.1051528. PMID 26067213.
Private cord blood banking can benefit those with a strong family history of certain diseases that harm the blood and immune system, such as leukemia and some cancers, sickle-cell anemia, and some metabolic disorders. Parents who already have a child (in a household with biological siblings) who is sick with one of these diseases have the greatest chance of finding a match with their baby’s cord blood. Parents who have a family history of autism, Alzheimer’s, and type 1 diabetes can benefit from cord blood. Although these diseases aren’t currently treated with umbilical cord steam cells, researchers are exploring ways to treat them (and many more) with cord blood.
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!
Banking a baby’s blood and stem cells in a cord blood bank is a type of insurance. Ideally, you would not need to access your baby’s stem cells in order to address a medical concern. However, using a cord blood bank can provide peace of mind in knowing that you have a valuable resource if you need it.
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.
Even if you don’t want to store the cord blood, highly consider donating the cord blood to local public banks. This cord blood can help patients that are on waiting lists with diseases such as leukemia.