Will the procedure hurt the baby or leave a mark?
No. The cord blood is collected only after the baby has been delivered and the umbilical cord has been cut. The procedure is completely non-invasive, and the baby is not harmed by the procedure.
Is the procedure risky?
No. Cord blood is collected from an umbilical cord immediately after the baby has been delivered. The collection can only take place at the time of the delivery. There is absolutely no risk or pain to the mother or child during the collection process, since the blood is harvested from the cord once it has been cut.
How long does it take to collect the cord blood?
The procedure takes just a few minutes in the delivery room, immediately after the baby has been delivered, and before the placenta and umbilical cord are thrown away as medical waste.
How can I find out about private family banks?
There are a number of private banks within the United States. An excellent website to find out more information on family banking is www.parentsguidecordblood.com
How can I find out how to donate to a public bank?
You can find out more about donating to a public bank by clicking on the following National Marrow Donor Program link www.marrow.org/ABOUT/Cord_Blood/index.html
What is cord blood?
Cord blood, or umbilical cord blood, is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta at the time of birth. Typically, the placenta, umbilical cord and cord blood are discarded after delivery as medical waste. However, medical science now recognizes that cord blood is a rich source of stem cells, which can be collected, processed and cryogenically preserved for potential, future use.
What are stem cells?
Stem cells are the body’s “master” cells because they create all other tissues, organs, and systems in the body. The stem cells found in cord blood are the building blocks of the blood and immune system and most readily reproduce into:
- Red Blood Cells – which carry oxygen to all the cells in the body
- White Blood Cells – which fight infection
- Platelets – which aid in clotting in the event of injury
The ability of cord blood stem cells to differentiate, or change into other types of cells in the body, is a new discovery that holds significant promise for the future. Researchers are investigating to see if they could provide the key, at some time in the future, for improving the treatment of common diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
Are cord blood stem cells different from other stem cells?
Yes. Umbilical cord blood stem cells are the “youngest,” safely available stem cells. Freezing these cells essentially stops the clock and prevents aging and damage that may occur to the cells later in life. Another source of stem cells, embryonic stem cells, has been at the heart of heated debate. Currently, embryonic stem cells are not being used to treat humans. A third category of stem cells are the adult stem cells, such as those found in bone marrow. Adult stem cells serve very specialized roles in children and adults and are not as proliferative as those found in cord blood.
Are umbilical cord blood stem cells the same as embryonic stem cells?
No, umbilical cord stem cells and embryonic stem cells are totally different. Sometimes there is a misperception due to the recent publicity about embryonic stem cells and the controversy about the federal government funding research for embryonic stem cells.
Embryonic stem cells are involved with discharged fetuses either from a miscarriage or an abortion. These fetuses are the source for embryonic stem cells, which are being used for research purposes.
Umbilical cord stem cells are not involved with embryonic stem cells. Umbilical cord stem cells are located in the umbilical cord and placenta of a newborn at birth. After the baby has been delivered and the umbilical cord has been cut, blood is drawn from the umbilical cord. It is a completely non-invasive procedure with absolutely no risk to either mother or child.
Are there religious/ethical issues here?
No. Umbilical cord stem cells are located in the umbilical cord of a newborn at birth. Only after the baby is born and the umbilical cord has been cut, is blood then drawn from the umbilical cord. For these reasons, both the Vatican and U.S. President Bush endorse the collection of umbilical cord blood stem cells.
What is the history of cord blood transplantation?
Umbilical cord blood was first used for transplantation in 1988, in France, for a patient with Fanconi’s anemia. Since that time, cord blood has been increasingly used as a substitute for bone marrow in many successful transplants. To date, there have been more than 8,000 cord blood transplants worldwide.
How are stem cells used in transplantation?
Stem cells are primarily used in transplant medicine to regenerate a patient’s blood and immune system after they have been treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation to destroy cancer cells.
At the same time the chemotherapy and radiation destroy the cancer cells in a patient, they also destroy stem cells. Therefore, an infusion of stem cells or a stem cell transplant is performed after the chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment. The stem cells then migrate to the patient’s bone marrow where they multiply and regenerate all of the cells to create a new blood and immune system for the patient.
There are more than 70 life-threatening diseases that may be treated by stem cell transplantation. Not all diseases amenable to stem cell transplantation have been treated specifically with cord blood stem cells.
Tomorrow The promise of using stem cells in Regenerative Medicine has been the focus of groundbreaking research projects that are showing encouraging results and have the potential to revolutionize the practice of medicine. Most recently, cord blood stem cells have shown promising initial results in reducing disease severity in Type 1 diabetes patients, possibly re-setting the immune system and slowing destruction of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.
Cord blood stem cells have also been “triggered” to differentiate into neural cells, which may, one day, hold the promise of treatments for diseases such as Parkinson’s disease. They have also proven their ability to turn into blood vessel cells, which may one day benefit treatments for heart disease, allowing patients to essentially “grow their own bypass.”
Easier to match — higher survival
Bone marrow is difficult to match between the donor and recipient because a perfect match is usually required. Cord blood immune cells, however, are less mature than those in bone marrow and can be successfully used even when there is only a half-match. Recipients experience less Graft versus Host Disease (GVHD) and, therefore, less complications and hospitalization.
Less expensive and less painful
Collection of bone marrow is an invasive process and can be very painful as it requires extracting marrow from the donor’s bones with a needle and syringe. This is a lengthy process that usually requires general anesthesia. It is also a very expensive procedure.
What is Graft versus Host Disease (GVHD)
GVHD is one of the most common and life threatening side effects of a stem cell/bone marrow transplant. GVHD occurs when the transplanted stem cells recognize the recipient’s body as foreign, and “reject” it. This greatly reduces the patient’s survival rate at two years post-transplant. Overall, patients who receive cord blood transplants experience significantly less GVHD because the stem cells from the donor do not need to match the recipient as closely as with bone marrow.
Where is the future heading with cord blood?
In the past two years alone, research has demonstrated that cord blood stem cells can differentiate into other types of cells in the body. The regenerative qualities of stem cells have been brought to the forefront in the field of cellular repair. Researchers are conducting more and more studies to unlock the potential of umbilical cord blood stem cells in future applications for diseases like diabetes, heart and liver disease, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease, brain and spinal cord injury, and stroke.