The innovative field of cord blood stem cells is fast evolving, with exciting new developments happening almost daily. When considering cord blood banking, it is important for expecting parents to be aware of all the facts. This section provides exactly the accurate and up-to-date information you need to make an informed decision, while exposing some of the more common misconceptions about cord blood banking.
- “Cord blood collection takes important blood away from the baby.”
- “Cord blood banking is only relevant for people who’ve got a history of cancer in the family”.
- “I doubt thawed blood can be used for medical treatment.”
- “The odds of using my baby’s cord blood for medical treatment are negligible.”
- “I use cord blood banking for one child, there’s no need to bank for my other children.”
- “Cord blood banking is a passing trend; cord blood is rarely used for treatments”.
Cord blood is collected after the baby is born and the umbilical cord has already been clamped and cut. The birth isn’t disrupted, since collection is performed at the very end of the birthing process and uses blood that would otherwise be discarded.
The procedure is short, safe and simple; painful for neither mother nor baby.
Early clamping of the umbilical cord ensures the optimal number of stem cells can be collected for cord blood banking. Should parents choose to, cord blood can be collected after delaying clamping for up to three or four minutes. If the amount of stem cells collected is insufficient, the cord blood will not be saved and the customer will not be charged. The amount of stem cells deemed appropriate for preservation is determined by accepted international standards in the field of cord blood preservation.
It is important to note: Later as opposed to earlier clamping doesn’t demonstrate any clear advantage. We do know that late clamping carries a risk of polycythemia, which may cause breathing problems and jaundice. On the other hand, late clamping can improve the iron balance of the newborn and prevent anemia.
In the past it was common to think that cord blood could only provide a suitable substitute in bone marrow transplantation, mainly for malignant blood system diseases like leukemia. Today the situation is very different.
In the last 20 years cord blood stem cells have been successfully used to treat more than 70 different life-threatening diseases. Leukemia is among the diseases that have been treated, along with a wide range of cancers, blood disorders, genetic diseases, metabolic disorders, and immune system deficiencies. Every day, new studies extend the list of diseases that can be treated thanks to cord blood banking, bringing fresh hope to patients and their families.
Cord blood also plays a strategic role in regenerative medicine. Cutting edge clinical trials evaluate stem cell therapies for their ability to induce healing or regenerate cells to repair tissues. Children’s own cord blood stem cells are infused to help the body repair itself in cases of cerebral palsy, autism and juvenile diabetes19. In the not so distant future the medical world expects a boom in cord blood stem cell applications in regenerative medicine for the liver, kidney, lungs and more.
This statement is misguided on several counts.
Firstly, most cancers are not genetic; instead, occurences in everyday life, such as food quality and environmental pollution, play a bigger role in contributing to the prevalence of cancer.
Secondly,cord blood isn’t only used to cure cancer. Successful clinical trials have also been performed for the treatment of cerebral palsy, brain injuries, diabetes, autism etc. In fact, research into cord blood stem cells shows great promise in treating conditions that currently have no cure; and the reasons for their outbreak often unknown.
Cord blood has a bright and expanding future in the treatment of many other diseases – particularly in the field of regenerative medicine, such as kidney, liver and heart tissue recovery.
Cord blood banking offers an important opportunity for everyone, regardless of their family’s malignant disease history.
Thawed cord blood most certainly can be used. In fact, cord blood banking is based on the premise that units will be preserved and thawed if needed for future treatment use. Frozen stem cells have been used since the first transplant of cord blood in 1988. More then 25,000 allogeneic cord blood transplantations have been performed worldwide since then26.
Just before thawing your cord blood unit, your physician will decide, based on the treatment program, if part of or the entire unit will be thawed.
Today, cord blood banking must comply with strict international standards to preserve stem cells for long periods of time. If your unit is retained in accordance with these regulations (as is the case in our bank), then you can rest assured the cells will be fully functional after thawing.
While it’s imposable to predict future illness or injury, recent developments in medicine have significantly increased the chance that a person could use a stem cell transplant for medical care.
In fact, a study published in Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation 200823 looked at the odds that a person in the US would need a stem cell transplant during their lifetime. The results showed that one in every to 217 people in the US will need a stem cell transplant. The study calculated the odds to need a stem cell transplant during the lifetime of a single person in the US. Results showed a probability of 1 to 435 people needing an autologous (self) transplant and 1 to 400 needing a donors’ transplant, the combined odds of transplantation being 1 to 217.
It is definitely worth saving cord blood for each child – even in the case of twins from two placentas. The reason for this is that an autolgous transplant has the highest chances of success.
In the case of twins from one placenta, one unit of cord blood can be preserved for both twins.
Of course, should a child whose cord blood wasn’t saved need a stem cell transplant, the first possibility to be explored is a sibling’s stem cell donation. In this case, there is a 25% chance of a full match, with the likelihood for an incomplete match (only possible in cord blood transplants) at 50%.
In addition, it is important to remember that new treatments using cord blood stem cells, such as with cerebral palsy, type 1 diabetes, brain injuries, and more, are only available to children by using their own cord blood (not that of their siblings) saved at birth.
Since 1988, when the first cord blood stem cells transplant took place, over 25,000 procedures have been performed in children and adults26.
More than 70 diseases are treated today using cord blood stem cells as standard care. “Standard care” means that this has become an accepted method in hospitals after passing all the required stages of research and experimentation.
Furthermore, new clinical trials and therapies are fast gaining ground, where stem cells are evaluated for their ability to induce healing or regenerate cells for tissue repair in diseases like cerebral palsy, autism and juvenile diabetes19. Clinical trials have clearly demonstrated that transplants have improved patients’ conditions.