After a baby is delivered, the mother’s body releases the placenta, the temporary organ that transferred oxygen and nutrients to the baby while in the mother’s uterus. Until recently, in most cases the umbilical cord and placenta were discarded after birth without a second thought. But during the 1970s, researchers discovered that umbilical cord blood could supply the same kinds of blood-forming (hematopoietic) stem cells as a bone marrow donor. And so, umbilical cord blood began to be collected and stored.
A cord blood bank is a facility which stores umbilical cord blood for future use. Both private and public cord blood banks have developed since the mid to late 1990s in response to the potential for cord blood transplants in treating diseases of the blood and immune systems.
After cord-blood collection has taken place, the blood is placed into bags or syringes and is usually taken by courier to the cord-blood bank. Once there, the sample is given an identifying number. Then the stem cells are separated from the rest of the blood and are stored cryogenically (frozen in liquid nitrogen) in a collection facility, also known as a cord-blood bank. Then, if needed, blood-forming stem cells can be thawed and used in either autologous procedures (when a person receives his or her own umbilical cord blood in a transplant) or allogeneic procedures (when a person receives umbilical cord blood donated from someone else – a sibling, close relative, or anonymous donor).
The primary reason that parents consider banking their newborn’s cord blood is because they have a child or close relative with or a family medical history of diseases that can be treated with bone marrow transplants. Some diseases that more commonly involve bone marrow transplants include certain kinds of leukemia or lymphoma, aplastic anemia, severe sickle cell anemia, and severe combined immune deficiency.
Doctors and researchers support saving umbilical cord blood as a source of blood-forming stem cells in every delivery – mainly because of the promise that stem-cell research holds for the future. Most people would have little use for stem cells now, but research into the use of stem cells for treatment of disease is ongoing – and the future looks promising.
If you do decide to bank your newborn’s cord blood, be sure to check Current Offers at www.cryo-cell.com