Cord blood and stem cell therapy are terms that we often hear today, particularly during pregnancy, but their potential impact on our future health is only partially understood by future parents.
How does it work?
The story begins after a baby is born. It is at this point that the cord connecting baby to mother is clamped and cut. Some blood remains in the umbilical vein attached to the placenta, but is now no longer needed by the baby. This is the cord blood, a vital source of stem cells which can be frozen and later used in medical therapies – forming the core building blocks for stem cell therapy.
Until recently, cord blood was, together with the rest of the materials of afterbirth, discarded as medical waste. Thanks to global developments in stem cell therapy, scientists now understand that the rich collection of primary stem cells found in cord blood has the miraculous ability to create new living tissues. Stem cell therapy is fast emerging as an alternative to bone marrow transplants and playing an important role in regenerative medicine.
Today stem cell therapy can use stem cells found in cord blood to treat over 70 life-threatening diseases. Among these are leukemia, many forms of cancer, blood disorders, genetic diseases, metabolic disorders and immune system deficiencies. With research and clinical investigation gathering pace in this exciting new field, stem cell therapy is showing big promise to treat conditions that have no cure today – such as cerebral palsy, juvenile diabetes and brain damage19.