Umbilical cord blood is generally referred to as cord blood in short. It is the reference made to the blood which stays in the umbilical cord and the placenta preceding delivery. When the mother is about to deliver the baby, in order to provide the immunity required for both the mother and baby, a maternal-fetal transfer of cells happens. As a result, post-delivery, this blood still remains to be a great source of stem cells, infused with some of the other immunity-related cells, containing rich sources.
The process in which the same blood is extracted out carefully and stored for future reference or use is known as cord blood banking. Basically, the blood’s content i.e. the stem cells and other immune cells are frozen cryogenically, to be used in the future when a medical need arises.
Cord blood banking is also referred to as stem cell banking is the most popular countries of the world. It is referred to as stem cells for a reason. The reason is that the actual storage which happens, has little blood or red blood cells, while most of the other referred to cells. The entire process is in connection with storing the blood-forming stem cells, rather than the actual blood cells, and so, the name would do it justice.
It was back in the 1990s where this blood was directly disposed of and the medicinal properties which it would contain were less known. Studies developed and we got to know how beneficial the blood can be, for saving from some of the life-threatening diseases. Parents nowadays opt to store the blood which can be used at the right time, if ever the need arises.
Before any harmful assumptions can be made, we wish to clear it out that it is not harmful to the baby and mother, and parents can plan to store their baby’s cord blood.
What is Cord Blood?
Cord blood is also referred to as placental blood. The name suggested is because it is present in the umbilical cord and placenta of the newborn babies. The cord and the blood are of use for baby, up to the time it stays inside the womb. But right after the baby is born, the cord and the cord blood is hardly of any use for the baby. If you wonder why it is considered so special, you would want to know, the blood is just similar to the general and normal blood constituents. The excess of hematopoietic cells that constitute in the blood alongside normal cells is why it is considered special. It is said that the hematopoietic cells have the ability to transform into platelets, red or even white blood cells. Also, if other scientific methods are used, they will have the ability to turn into whatsoever cells your body needs at the future moment.
Science has evolved a lot these past few years, and there has been a discovery of other kinds of blood which contains such hematopoietic cells, but the most well-suited option is the cord blood. It remains the best-considered option as there is a higher constituent of hematopoietic cells present in the cord blood than any other blood.
Mentioning the process of hematopoiesis, it is the way by which doctors can generate new and healthy blood cells. This constituent is likewise found in the bone marrow after birth. But, the process where the bone marrow is extractive is pretty painful and invasive. There are a lot of conditions to be fulfilled when the bone marrow procedure is done. Such as it must be collected from a healthy person, and also must be a match, a donor for the ailment in concern.
This is where the cord blood becomes our best catch, as it is absolutely painless and also can be extracted easily. Extracting bone marrow is a rather difficult process and too much pain for the donor. So, the best catch is to bank up the person’s blood to further use it for personal needs in the future, and this would also eliminate the need and hassle of finding the right match, the correct donor.
What cord blood may do?
As mentioned earlier, cord blood is actually quite full of stem cells and immune system cells. The research on the uses of stem cells and immune system cells is on the high rise, and this is a great way in which possible diseases can be dodged.
The basic use these cells are put to is connected with the regeneration of tissues and cells, so cord blood is also known as regenerative medicine. As per the present progress, the blood is successfully used in the treatment of up to 80 diseases. The treatments using cord blood have been on the rise and the same has been done for up to 35,000 times, as per the general, entire world’s analysis. Major treatments that took place in the world are cancer, (including lymphoma and leukemia), anemias, inherited metabolic disorders and some solid tumors and orthopedic repair.
The 80 diseases which can be cured using stem blood, can be sorted into 14 types, as they are in some way related to these.
- Bone Marrow Failure Syndromes
- Immune Deficiencies
- Metabolic/Storage Diseases
- Platelet Disorders
- Neutrophil Disorders
- Autoimmune Diseases, such as HIV
- Epidermolysis Bullosa
- Other Malignancies, Including Breast Cancer, Plasma Cell Disorder, Neuroblastoma
Assured treatment facilities are not available through stem cells for all the categories as of now, but this does open the wide arena of possibilities for present and for future treatment. Research is on and the scientists are in an attempt to explore the possibilities of ways in which cord blood can be used to cross the blood-brain barrier into differentiating neurons and other brain cells. Here the cord blood will be put to use for the best of its potential.
Such a medical advancement can actually open doors to a number of treatments that have been untreatable up to this point in time. Some of the examples would be, the possibility of successful treatment of autism, cerebral palsy and Alzheimer’s.
The advancement as of now, brings us closer to the possibility of cure up to one in 217, by the age of 70. But, the advancement is likely to grow to a greater extent. The research is going on and there has been noted advancement in the cord blood and related stem and immune cells research. If stored now, the possibility of using it in the future may happen and it would grow phenomenally.
Importance to the family as well
Our immune system works in a way where everything suited is kept while the rest is disposed of. So, we cannot simply use other people’s immune systems to get our injuries and illnesses treated. There has to be specific compatibility in the cells, and as a result of which it becomes necessary to find the right fit. If it goes the other way, there might be a rise in complications after the transplant.
These complications are to be avoided, and hence, it is necessary to find the right match. So, the perfect match of the blood taken out from the cord is the baby. Also, it can be a pretty good match for the immediate members of the bold which has been stored. As for the siblings, there is a chance of having a perfect match for up to 25 percent, where there is a 50 percent chance of being a partial match.
On the other end, parents have a 100 percent chance of being a partial match. Whereas, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and other extended family members also have a greater probability of being a match. Therefore, there are a lot of people from the family itself who can be benefitted from the process of cord blood banking.
Why cord blood bank is important?
To give you a clearer view of the content, we decided to give you some strong pros, as in the importance of cord blood banking.
The umbilical cord can actually save lives
Cord blood contains a lot of stem cells infused into it, which can be recreated into the cells that one’s body is in need of. These blood cells can be transformed into cells that can be used to treat cancer, sickle cell anemia, and some metabolic disorder. There sure are other ways of getting such stem cells, such as bone marrow, but cord blood remains effective of them all. It is because it matches the patients and some immediate family members. It is also a painless procedure, as it is collected during birth from the umbilical cord.
Therapies with cord blood have gotten more successful
The results of this procedure have improved and the studies have advanced for the past 10 years. The success is because there have been insights and knowledge learning of the ways of dosing cord blood, picking matches easily and better ones, and also the exact and correct way in which the patient, i.e. the transplant patients need to be taken care of, while the procedure goes on, pre and post-transplant as well.
Cord blood holds promise for future medical procedures
There is no stopping after discovering the few rather successful ways in which it works. This is the motivation and the new discovery made encourages scientists to study more about the increased possibilities the cord blood contains, of treating a lot more diseases in the future. The present research is already on, where scientists are in an attempt to use the patient’s own cord blood to treat cerebral palsy and Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (a condition in which the brain does not receive enough oxygen). This particular trail is on, and so are the trails on autism.
You can access your own cord blood, whenever in need
This goes for the process where one pays and stores it in a private bank for future needs and uses. This way, if you choose to pay for the preservation, you will be solely entitled to the preserved blood, along with your family members. No outsider will be able to take any part in the stored blood whatsoever. On the contrary, if you choose to go for a public bank, your blood will be available for literally anyone who is in need. If found the right match, the blood will be donated to the person in need. Hence, you cannot be assured of the blood being there for you, reserved, for the times you would need it.
Where is it stored?
The cord blood of the baby can be stored in the following three ways:
Public cord blood banks: These types of blood banks do not charge anything for storing the cord blood. Anyone can make a donation and anyone who is in need of it can obtain it. The public banks for umbilical cord blood render gratuitous blood for people who meet the requirements of donation. They are able to do so because they are backed-up and funded by private or federal resources.
Although public banks do not permit directed storage. This is what makes cord blood available to every patient who needs it, as it is no longer reserved for a specific person or family.
And the cord blood that is to be used by an unrelated patient, when there exists no relation between the donor and the patient then FDA approval is required before the cord blood can be used.
Private or commercial cord blood banks: These types of banks will store the donated blood to be used by only the donor and his/her family members. These types of banks charge the people a processing fee and also an annual cost for the storage. The private banks for cord blood are for-profit companies as they allow storing umbilical cord blood to be of personal use only. Also, there is no guarantee that the blood stored will be of use to treat the donor or his/her family members for a certain medical condition at the time of need. These types of banks are greatly beneficial when it is in the knowledge of all concerned persons that there is a family member having a medical condition that could be treated by transplanting this umbilical cord blood.
Direct donation blood banks: These types of banks are a mixture of the public and the private banks for cord blood. They store the cord blood for the public and as well as accept donations to be used by particular families as well. But they do not charge any type of fees.
Mentioned above were the ways in which you can donate, store, and use the cord blood with the help of the different types of cord blood banks.
How it works
The process is actually quite a lengthy one, but health care providers are there to keep tabs on the process, while the parents of the child are concerned with the giving birth procedure. The process basically goes by collecting, processing and then cryopreserving the baby’s cord blood. The banks you tie-up with will do the same for you. Here is how it works:
- The blood bank you put up ties with will send a kit, which is generally to be stored at room temperature.
- This kit will then go to the hospital with the mother, where the delivery will happen.
- When the mother gets admitted, the blood of the mother is collected for testing purposes, where it is checked for any kind of infection. This is a norm that has to be followed as per the federal regulations.
- When the birth happens, but before the placenta is delivered, the umbilical cord will be cut as it generally is.
- This is where cord blood remains in the umbilical cord and placenta. A quantity of 40-120 milliliters of blood can be found, which is then extracted by the health care provider, with absolutely no harm causing to the mother as well as the baby.
- Now the provider will place back the cord blood and the mother’s blood collection samples into the kit.
- Parents will then have to arrange the transportation of the same by getting in touch with the health care provider.
How the Cord blood is collected?
At least 40ml of blood is collected so that enough cells are present for transplantation. The collection of the blood can be made before or after the placenta is removed. Whichever may be the case, the section of the umbilical cord is thoroughly cleaned and then the blood is allowed to collect in a bag by draining the blood into it with the force of gravity. The blood needs to be collected as soon as possible after birth in order to avoid coagulation and collect as much volume as possible. And if an adequate amount of blood could not be collected then the specimen is discarded, also if the specimen is not sterile.
A doctor’s Advice
Here we will discuss, what doctors’ advice when people ask whether should they bank their baby’s blood or not. The stem cells of cord blood are used in the treatment of diseases related to blood and immunity apart from the other 40 diseases. So this shows that the cord-blood is extremely helpful in the treatment of a number of diseases. But another thing to note here is that one study showed that the chances of a child using his/her cord blood over the course of their life are almost nil. And there is no proof to support that using cord blood in regenerative medicine will be fruitful. Routine storage and collection of the cord blood done by the private banks are not backed-up by the available proofs.
Also, if a person is suffering from a disease caused due to genetic mutation then the stored cord blood can not be used. This is because the same disease would also be present in the stem cells of this umbilical cord blood, as well. On the other hand, some other studies show that cord blood can be used only for 15 years. It is also suggested by some that the private banks for cord blood should be used to store the cord blood only when a sibling is there who has a certain medical condition in which he/she could get help by using the stem cells of the cord blood. Though for numerous benefits of stem cells people are often encouraged to donate cord blood to public banks so that others can be helped.
Also, do not make this a last-minute decision. The bank should coordinate with you from the beginning of the procedure. This will ensure the procedure being carried out safely. As it is not in the best interest of the baby and the mother to leave even the tiniest of things to chance.
By now you must have understood the significance and importance of this umbilical cord blood and its stem cells. Though it depends on the donor and his family whether it would be a wise decision to make the donation and store it or not. Choosing to go for public cord blood banks is still an easy choice to make as there is no fee involved. But a number of factors need to be considered at the time of private banking of cord blood.
Also, these private banks advertise a lot to manipulate people into donating and storing blood for their family, but you should make the decision considering the medical history and genetic information of yourself and your family members. And also, research is continuously going on for finding out more benefits and uses of umbilical cord blood, so new information might come in the future that will make the decision of collecting and storing the blood, an easy one.