The blood within Baby’s umbilical cord is a rich source of young stem cells. These immature cells have the ability to renew themselves and become specialized. They are also flexible and easily adapt to a patient’s body, decreasing the likelihood of rejection. Cord blood banking is the process of collecting and storing these stem cells for potential medical use.
How is cord blood used?
Today, cord blood stems cells are used in the treatment of nearly 80 diseases, including a wide range of cancers, genetic diseases, and blood disorders. Cord blood stem cells can help patients replace damaged blood cells with healthy ones and strengthen their immune systems. Cord blood is also being used in clinical research trials for a variety of conditions, like cerebral palsy and type 1 diabetes.
How often is cord blood used?
In the past 20 years, cord blood stem cells have been used in more than 30,000 medical treatments worldwide. And now they’re used in nearly 50% of all pediatric transplants.
Who can use it in treatment?
There is often confusion over who can use cord blood stem cells in treatment — the baby the cells are collected from, or a sibling? The short answer is both, but it very much depends on the condition being treated. And it’s ultimately the treating physician’s decision.
Baby may use her own cord blood to treat certain non-genetic diseases and cancers without risk of rejection. Participation in some clinical trials requires children to have access to their own privately banked cord blood.
A sibling in need of a stem cell donor may be able to use a brother’s or sister’s. Most diseases that can use cord blood in treatment are inherited genetic diseases. Typically, these treatments require a donor transplant, as from a sibling. If your child needs a donor, a family member is always the first-choice source.
Does cord blood expire? And if I need it, will it work?
When stem cells are properly stored and processed, scientists believe they should last indefinitely.
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that using cord blood stem cells in treatment will work and only a doctor can determine when it can be used. However, it is worth noting that cord blood is now used in nearly 50% of all pediatric transplants.
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- M Allison. “Hemacord approval may foreshadow regulatory creep for HSC therapies.” Nature Biotechnology. 30, 304 (2012) doi:10.1038/nbt0412-304. Web. 4/10/2012.
- JV Linden, RA Preti, R Dracker. “New York state guidelines for cord blood banking.” Journal of Hematotherapy. 1997;6:535-41. Web. 1997.