Written by Andrew Ripps. Posted in News

As science advances at breakneck speed, medical terms are increasingly becoming part of our everyday family life, especially during pregnancy. The following glossary explains key terms in the stem cell and cord blood field. Understanding them will better equip you to decide about preserving cord blood and which cord blood bank you choose.
Should you have any questions about a particular term or its use, we encourage you to send them to our team. Please allow up to 48 hours to have an inquiry answered. Click here for contacting us»

  • Autologous (self)

Refers to self (the Greek word “auto” means “self”), created from the live organism itself. Transplants using the person’s own cells are called Autologous (self transplantation). Autologous transplants do not stimulate an immunological reaction and, therefore,  are not rejected.
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  • Allogeneic

From the Greek word “Allos”, meaning different or other, allogenic transplants are from one person to another.
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  • Cord blood bank

A bank used for preserving and storing stem cells collected from the cord blood of the newborn shortly after the birth. They are then kept for an extended period of time in conditions which meet high international standards of cell preservation (for the blood units).
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  • Public cord blood bank

A blood bank in which newborns’ cord blood units are collected after birth, for the use of the general public. The blood unit is not preserved specifically for the donor’s family. Instead, the unit is available to those who need a transplant and are a genetic match, or for research purposes – according to the public bank’s defined conditions.
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  • Private (family) cord blood bank

A private bank where the newborn’s cord blood is collected and preserved for the exclusive use of the donor (baby) and family for a fee. Thus securing a usable and available blood unit for a newborn and family members, should it be needed.
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  • Biological insurance

Preserving stem cells from cord blood for therapeutic use in the present or the future.
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  • GvHD – Graft-versus-host-disease 

One of the most dangerous complications that can arise following a stem cell/bone marrow transplant is a severe immunological reaction. The donor’s transplanted cells recognize the recipient’s body (the host) as foreign and attack it. This expression of rejection reduces the chances of a successful transplant.

Transplanting cord blood stem cells has been proven to significantly reduce the risk of rejection. The donor’s stem cells do not have to be fully matched to the recipient for bone marrow transplants. In addition, the immunological reaction of cord blood stem cells is diminished. In fact, in cases of self stem cell transplants (the person uses their own blood unit taken at their birth), such a rejection is completely impossible, since there is a complete match.
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  • Cord blood (umbilical cord blood)

The remaining blood left in the umbilical cord at birth, which contains a rich concentration of young stem cells, uncontaminated by infection and genetic changes. In the past and, surprisingly, even sometimes today, after the umbilical cord is cut the cord blood is disposed of along with the placenta and the umbilical cord.
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  • Accreditation

An extended process, in which an authorized external entity examines, approves and accredits the bank to preserve cord blood. Note that accreditation is not a regulatory process but an authorization process, involving examinations and extensive reviews.
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  • Transplant

The transfer of cells or organs from a donor to a recipient.
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  • Self-transplant (autologous transplant)

Transplant of a cell, tissue or organ from a person to him or herself. These transplants do not stimulate an immunological reaction and are not rejected.
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  • Allogeneic transplant

A transplant of a cell, tissue or organ from one person to another. The donor must be genetically matched to the recipient. Usually this is between siblings, but it is possible to have a donor who is not a family member.
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  • Bone marrow transplant

The procedure replacing destroyed bone marrow as a result of treatments with high doses of anticancer substances or radiation. The transplant can be a self transplant (autologous, i.e. from the bone marrow of the patient, which was preserved before the treatment), allogeneic (a bone marrow donation from another person), or syngeneic (a bone marrow donation from an identical twin).
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  • Differentiation

The process in which young cells gradually develop and acquire characteristics of specific cells in the body such as heart, brain, liver and muscle.
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  • Umbilical cord

The structure connecting the fetus to the placenta throughout the pregnancy – consisting of two arteries and one vein. The fetus receives oxygen and nutrients from the mother’s blood through the umbilical cord arteries. The fetus’s waste products are removed through the vein to the mother’s blood throughout the pregnancy. The umbilical cord contains an enormous stockpile of stem cells, which have the potential to save lives.
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  • Bone marrow

A soft, sponge like tissue, located in the inner cavities of most bones, which produces red blood cells, white blood cells and blood platelets.
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  • Tissue classification

A series of tests carried out prior to the transplant to evaluate the match between the donor and recipient tissues. On the surface of every cell in the body are substances called antigens that have the capacity to stimulate an immunological reaction. When a person gets a tissue transplant, the antigens alert the recipient’s body to the foreign tissue, rejecting the transplant.

For example, on the surface of red blood cells are three antigens, types B, A and RH, according to which blood type is defined. In tissues other than red blood cells, there is a different group of antigens called Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA). Usually, a successful transplant requires a full match between the donor and the recipient’s antigens. A cord blood stem cell transplant can be carried out successfully with only a partial match.
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  • Stem cells

Stem cells serve as building blocks of all the body’s cells and tissues. During pregnancy, the fetus develops from stem cells. These primary cells are young and as yet unspecialized with the ability to renew (replicate themselves by cell division). They also have the capacity to differentiate into specialized adult cells spanning muscle, red blood, brain etc.

There are three sources of stem cells:
Adult stem cells originating in the peripheral blood (found in arteries and veins) or in bone marrow from the hip bones.
Stem cells originating in the umbilical cord and placenta – one of the richest sources of stem cells.
Embryonic stem cells – produced from embryos in the early stages of life (severe ethical controversy surrounds the use of these cells). AssureImmune doesn’t collect nor does it use embryonic stem cells.
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  • Stem cells from cord blood

Stem cells which are present in the umbilical cord blood during pregnancy, the birth and for a short time afterwards. They originate from the baby’s cells left in the placenta. Cord blood stem cells have proven clinical advantages over adult stem cells. Umbilical cord blood stem cells are a natural source of high quality stem cells, free of the ethical controversies associated with embryonic blood.
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