Umbilical cord blood storage is seen as the most comprehensive technology to prevent and even cure a wide range of life threatening diseases.
The umbilical cord is a tube that connects a growing fetus to the placenta. Its major function during pregnancy is to exchange nutrients and blood between the embryo and placenta. This makes it abundant in hematopoietic stem cells that are essential in the cure of many genetic diseases. Cord blood stem cell banking ensures that the stem cells can be used as a primary source for transplantation in the future. These cells are also genetically unique the baby and its family.
Umbilical cord blood storage transplants the stem cells to treat pediatric disorders, like leukemia, sickle cell disease, and metabolic disorders. The cord blood stem cells are used as match to the person it belongs to, or it can be matched with a sibling, relative or even an unrelated person. Increasingly parents in the United States are turning to cord blood stem cell banking for their newborn baby.
Stem cells are the building blocks of every organ, tissue and cell in the human body; these can restore or replace tissue that has been severely damaged. It has the capacity to reverse the ravaging effects of many diseases. The umbilical cord is an easy source for these vital cells. It is usually thrown away, but if it is collected and reused it is one of best options.
The decision to collect the umbilical cord cells has to be taken well before birth. Everyone right from the obstetrician, to the parents and the cord blood stem cell bank has to be prepared.
The blood is collected after the cord has been cut from the mother, before the placenta is delivered or after. In both cases, the cord blood units have to be sent immediately to a cord blood bank. If it is collected before the placenta is delivered then the umbilical cord is clamped and cut as usual. The blood is preserved in a bag and sent with a sample of the mother’s blood. It is protected from coagulating, and the possibility of bacterial contamination. The procedure for collecting the umbilical cord blood is painless.
In the cord blood stem cell bank, it is checked for its tissue type and infectious diseases like AIDS, hepatitis and malaria. It is processed to remove the red blood, to be Cryopreserved in liquid nitrogen for later use.
If it is to be used later, the cryopreserved cord blood is defrosted, cleaned of the chemicals, and injected through a vein of the patient. This is termed as allogeneic treatment.
There are many benefits in umbilical blood storage. Blood and immune-system related genetic diseases like cancers like leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell disease, or even thalassemia, are treatable with cord blood transplants. If the patient can use his or her own cord blood, or if it is matched perfectly with a sibling the chances of cure are far higher. This one single reason prompts parents to turn to umbilical cord blood storage.
Also most people are able to accept umbilical cord blood because they are immunologically immature and undeveloped as compared to adult stem cells in bone marrow or peripheral blood. Besides, cord transplants have much lower life-threatening side effects.
Plus, if a child ever needs the cord blood then it saves time in searching for a donor. If anyone in the family needs the transplant then in all likelihood the cord cells will also match. Early treatment always lessens the progression of the disease helping in faster healing.
There are those who feel that umbilical blood storage has many downsides, the huge price of the procedure being one of them. Public cord blood stem cell banking has helped in reducing the average cost and has helped some underprivileged families access its benefits.
There is an increasing trend for many public hospitals to offer umbilical cord blood storage facilities. It seems this will be the trend towards treating and curing many diseases in the future