Cord blood banking is increasingly becoming popular because cord blood is believed to cure many diseases.
Many parents store their children’s cord blood in banks as a precaution against any life-threatening diseases that their family may face in the future. However, many people today still don’t know what cord blood is and why it’s so valuable.
Cord blood is the blood left in the umbilical cord when the baby is born. This left-over blood has special stem cells that can cure serious illnesses. After the umbilical cord is clamped, the cord blood can be collected and stored in a private banking company, for future use.
In this article, we look at what makes cord blood so valuable.
Why Is Cord Blood Valuable?
Cord blood contains stem cells that are similar to the cells found in the bone marrow. Stem cells are primitive or unspecialized cells, that can live for a long period.
Cord blood contains the earliest form of stem cells. Stem cells can develop into specialized cells, like, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. These cells are the essential building blocks for the body.
Since a stem cell can develop into any of the 220 cells in the human body, it is considered highly valuable. Stem cells can also regenerate and renew themselves, many times.
There are three types of stem cells, embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells and, induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSC). One of these, the embryonic stem cells, are found in the cord blood and can give rise to any stem cell in the human body. This is also why cord blood banking is becoming a more common choice for many parents.
Uses of Cord Blood in Medicine
Stem cell transplant is as an effective therapy for many diseases, like cancer, immune deficiencies, and some genetic diseases.
Traditionally, stem cells were transplanted mainly from the bone marrow or blood. Recently, cord blood has become a viable alternative for stem cell transplant.
In a bone marrow transplant, the stem cells have to match perfectly, and its often difficult to find a bone marrow donor. But, for cord blood transplant, the stem cells don’t have to match perfectly. Thus, it’s easier to find a cord blood match.
Advantages of Cord Blood Transplant
Cord blood is used for treating various diseases which require stem cell transplant, like leukemia or lymphoma. Below, we look at a few advantages of cord blood transplant vs. bone marrow transplant.
- Reduces the risk of graft versus host disease: Graft versus host disease (GVHD) is a condition, where the donated stem cells view the host body as foreign and attack the body. This can be fatal. To reduce the risk of GVHD, the stem cell must match perfectly. However, when the stem cell transplant is done using cord blood, the risk is highly reduced and a perfect match may not be required. This is because cord blood is primitive and more adaptable.
- Rich source of stem cells: Cord blood has ten times the number of stem cells compared to the stem cells found in the bone marrow.
- Capacity to renew: Since cord blood stem cells are primitive, they have a greater capacity to renew and regenerate themselves.
- Painless procedure: When extracting stem cells from the bone marrow, anaesthesia is given and bone marrow is removed from the back, using injections. This can be a painful process. However, since, cord blood stem cells are removed from a clamped umbilical cord, and transplanted to the patient later, it’s a painless process.
Cord Blood Storage And Collection
Cord blood can be either stored in a public bank or a private bank. If the cord blood is donated, it is marked anonymously, and stored in a public bank, free of cost.
This is donated cord blood, and cannot be used later, in case you need it. However, if you wish to store your baby’s cord blood for future use, you can opt for a private cord blood bank. Here, the cord blood is collected and stored for a fee and is available to you when you need it.
In case you opt for private cord blood banking, the bank will provide you a collection kit beforehand. This kit will be given to the healthcare practitioner during delivery, who will collect the cord blood, cord tissue, and placenta. The parents can then call the bank’s assigned medical courier to come and collect it at their location.
Cord blood is increasingly becoming a popular alternative for stem cell transplants.
Since cord blood stem cells are primitive and don’t require a complete stem cell match with the patient, a stem cell transplant is easier and safer than a bone marrow transplant. There’s also ongoing research on its use for regenerative therapies.