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Cord blood contains stem cells that can save lives. Patients requiring a stem cell transplant will receive cells from one of three sources: bone marrow, circulating blood, or umbilical cord blood. The first two exist in all healthy adults, but cord blood can only be harvested and stored at birth
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Four main types of physical conditions are treated with stem cell transplants: cancers, blood disorders, congenital metabolic disorders, and immunodeficiencies (see Table 1). Examples of cancers that are treated with stem cells are both lymphoma and leukemia. Nonmalignant hemologic disorders also account for a fair share of the recipients of stem cells. Examples of these blood disorders are various types of anemias, such as sickle-cell anemia and Fanconi’s anemia (the first disorder treated with umbilical cord blood stem cells). Stem cells have also been used to treat various metabolic disorders, such as adrenoleukodystrophy. The fourth major category of uses for stem cells is in treating immunodeficiencies, such as Duncan’s disease or adenosine deaminase deficiency (Drew, 2005; Moise, 2005).
Entz-Werle N, Suciu S, van der Werff Ten Bosch J, et al. Results of 58872 and 58921 trials in acute myeloblastic leukemia and relative value of chemotherapy vs allogeneic bone marrow transplantation in first complete remission: the EORTC Children Leukemia Group report. Leukemia.2005;19 :2072– 2081
Tracey Dones of Hicksville, N.Y., paid to bank her son Anthony’s cord blood. But four months after he was born, Anthony was diagnosed with osteopetrosis, a rare disease that causes the body to produce excess bone, leads to blindness, and can be fatal if left untreated.
The syringe or bag should be pre-labeled with a unique number that identifies your baby. Cord blood may only be collected during the first 15 minutes following the birth and should be processed by the laboratory within 48 hours of collection.
Family Cord, located in Los Angeles, has a high-quality lab, a top rating from the Better Business Bureau, and accreditation from AABB; it’s also been in business since 1997. Family Cord is one of the few banks that will also cover the cost of cord blood banking for the first year (there’s an annual fee after the first year) in cases where a baby has a sick sibling or another family member who could benefit from the cord blood.
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Because there are no scientific data at the present time to support autologous cord blood banking and given the difficulty of making an accurate estimate of the need for autologous transplantation and the ready availability of allogeneic transplantation, private storage of cord blood as “biological insurance” should be discouraged. Cord blood banks should comply with national accreditation standards developed by the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT), the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Federal Trade Commission, and similar state agencies. At a minimum, physicians involved in procurement of cord blood should be aware of cord blood collection, processing, and storage procedures as shown in Table 2.
There are several advantages of using umbilical cord blood stem cells over bone marrow stem cells for transplants (see Table 2). The first advantage is that umbilical cord blood is relatively easy to collect and process. Once considered a substance to be thrown away after a birth, now the cord blood can be easily saved. After it is saved and sent to a storage facility, the cord blood is quickly available for use within days to weeks after processing. In contrast, bone marrow stem cells can take much longer to find a match, collect the sample, and process. The process for bone marrow transplantation can take from weeks to months. The collection process for cord blood is not painful to either mother or child and can be done either prior to or after the delivery of the placenta (Gonzalez-Ryan, VanSyckle, Coyne, & Glover, 2000; Percer, 2009). Bone marrow transplants, on the other hand, require the donor to be hospitalized, anesthetized, and experience postcollection pain and discomfort. Thus, compared to cord blood, bone marrow collection and transplantation of stem cells are more costly (Drew, 2005; Moise, 2005).
Tom Moore, CEO of Cord Blood Registry, the largest private cord blood banking firm, told ABC News conceded that there was no proof that the transplants worked, but added that there is strong anecdotal evidence.
Given the difficulty in estimating the need for using one’s own cord blood cells for transplantation, private storage of cord blood as “biological insurance” is unwise. However, banking should be considered if there is a family member with a current or potential need to undergo a stem cell transplantation.
Korthof ET, Snijder PP, de Graaff AA, et al. Allogeneic bone marrow transplantation for juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia: a single center experience of 23 patients. Bone Marrow Transplant.2005;35 :455– 461
Rocha V, Wagner JE Jr, Sobocinski KA, et al. Graft-versus-host disease in children who have received a cord-blood or bone marrow transplant from an HLA-identical sibling. Eurocord and International Bone Marrow Transplant Registry Working Committee on Alternative Donor and Stem Cell Sources. N Engl J Med.2000;342 :1846– 1854
With public cord blood banks, there’s a greater chance that your cord blood will be put to use because it could be given to any child or adult in need, says William T. Shearer, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Pediatrics and Immunology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Cord blood is donated and is put on a national registry, to be made available for any transplant patient. So if your child should need the cord blood later in life, there’s no guarantee you would be able to get it back.
In recent years, umbilical cord blood, which contains a rich source of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells, has been used successfully as an alternative allogeneic donor source to treat a variety of pediatric genetic, hematologic, immunologic, and oncologic disorders. Because there is diminished risk of graft-versus-host disease after transplantation of cord stem cells using matched related donors, the use of less-than-completely matched HLA cord blood stem cells may incur less risk of graft-versus-host disease than mismatched cells from either a related or unrelated “walking” donor, although this remains to be proven. Gene-therapy research involving modification of autologous cord blood stem cells for the treatment of childhood genetic disorders, although experimental at the present time, may prove to be of value. These scientific advances have resulted in the establishment of not-for-profit and for-profit cord blood–banking programs for allogeneic and autologous cord blood transplantation. Many issues confront institutions that wish to establish or participate in such programs. Parents often seek information from their physicians about this new biotechnology option. This document is intended to provide information to guide physicians in responding to parents’ questions about cord blood donation and banking and the types and quality of cord blood banks. Provided also are recommendations about appropriate ethical and operational standards, including informed consent policies, financial disclosures, and conflict-of-interest policies for physicians, institutions, and organizations that operate or have a relationship with cord blood–banking programs.
Cord blood, which is harvested from the umbilical cord right after a baby is born, is marketed as a treatment for diseases such as leukemia and sickle cell disease, and as a potential source of cells for regenerative medicine – a cutting-edge field of medicine studying how to repair tissues damaged by everything from heart disease to cerebral palsy.
Kasamon YL, Jones RJ, Piantadosi S, et al. High-dose therapy and blood or marrow transplantation for non-Hodgkin lymphoma with central nervous system involvement. Biol Blood Marrow Transplant.2005;11 :93– 100
After a baby is born, the umbilical cord and placenta are no longer needed and are usually discarded. However, the blood remaining in the umbilical cord and placenta is rich with blood-forming cells. (These cells are not embryonic stem cells.) By collecting and freezing this blood, the healthy blood-forming cells can be stored and may later be used by a patient who needs them.
Researchers continue to investigate new applications of stem cells. Ballen (2006) reported on studies examining the use of stem cells for treating autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, systemic sclerosis, and multiple sclerosis. Gunning (2007) reported on stem cell research for regenerative uses for heart attacks, stroke, spinal cord injury, diabetes, liver injury, and even traumatic brain injury. However, Gunning also noted that these regenerative uses for stem cells are purely in the research stage and, so far, no tangible evidence supports any clinical uses beyond the diseases that are currently being treated.
Cryo-Cell, Viacord, and Cord Blood Registry are three of the oldest and largest private cord blood banks in the United States. They’ve been storing cord blood since the early ’90s, and they’re all accredited by the AABB. Cryo-Cell is located in Oldsmar, Florida; Viacord in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Cord Blood Registry in San Bruno, California. Each of these banks has its own private labs that test for syphilis, HIV, hepatitis, cytomegalovirus, and human T-cell lymphotrophic virus (considered a precursor to leukemia); the testing is included in their registration fee.
ViaCord collaborates with leading research and medical centers across the country to help advance medical treatments using cord blood, discover treatments using cord tissue, and connect families to relevant clinical trials.