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Extracting stem cells from bone marrow requires surgery under anesthesia; extracting them from the blood requires taking a drug to stimulate their production. And in order to work, these stem cell donations need to come from a person who carries a similar pattern of proteins on the outsides of his or her cells, a molecular calling card known as HLA type. Stem cells found in cord blood don’t need to be as closely matched to work. Because these cells are so flexible, there’s more wiggle room between donor and recipient. That’s particularly good news for people of certain ethnic minorities who often have trouble finding matched stem cell transplant donors.
The “cell recovery rate” is often used to compare processing methods. Expressed as a percentage, the cell recovery rate tells you how many cells are retrieved from the original cord blood collection, once plasma has been removed and red blood cells have been reduced or removed. It is expected that some cells will be lost during processing, and most processing methods have published cell recovery rates between 80%—99%
Proponents of cord blood banking are convinced that instead of being medical waste, the fetal cells within are biological gold. In this post, and the two that follow, I’ll take a look at the evidence for those claims, and sort through some of the questions that arise as parents consider whether to bank their baby’s cord blood.
Stay up on the latest stem cell developments with our stem cell news blog. Read about the newest trials that are underway, how current trials are faring and new ways that cord blood and tissue stem cells are being used in regenerative therapies. For doctors and researches, the Stem Cell Insider provides a more detailed look at the latest stem cell news and showcases the latest advancements in our products to help ensure stem cells preserved with us are viable and pure.
Stem cells’ role is critical for regenerative medicine. A stem cell is a special type of cell because it is the basis for all the other cells in our bodies. Stem cells have the ability to develop into one of many different types of cells. This process of a stem cell becoming a specific type of cell like a skin cell, blood cell or bone cell is known as differentiation. The other unique ability of stem cells is to replicate quickly. Combined, these abilities can quickly replenish different types of cells, making stem cells a driving factor or major enhancement in the healing process.
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).
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.
An alternative to a related donor involves seeking unrelated HLA-matched adult allogeneic donors outside of the family.2,6,11 There are more than 7 million potential unrelated volunteer adult donors registered in the National Marrow Donor Program registry.17 Although the number of patients who receive unrelated adult allogeneic donor stem cell transplants continues to increase each year, many patients are unable to find a fully matched donor, which diminishes access to transplantation therapy. Nonwhite patients have a lower chance of identifying a fully matched unrelated adult donor because of genetic heterogeneity and lack of nonwhite donors. Over the past decade, unrelated-donor, banked umbilical cord blood has been shown to contain sufficient numbers of stem cells for successful transplantation between unrelated, partially HLA-mismatched individuals.19–23 With advances in the clinical practice of cord blood transplantation, most patients unable to find a fully matched adult donor can identify a partially matched cord blood donor.
Preserving stem cells does not guarantee that the saved stem cells will be applicable for every situation. Ultimate use will be determined by a physician. Please note: Americord Registry’s activities are limited to collection of umbilical cord tissue from autologous donors. Americord Registry’s possession of a New York State license for such collection does not indicate approval or endorsement of possible future uses or future suitability of cells derived from umbilical cord tissue.
One of the key things you’ll want the cord blood bank’s representative to explain to you is how the cord blood bank collects and stores cord blood. Collection and storage methods may differ across cord blood banking companies, and you’ll want to be sure that the cord blood bank complies with all federal standards.2
A “clinical trial” is a study in human patients for an emerging therapy that has not been adopted as standard therapy. This website has pages that enable patients to search worldwide for currently recruiting clinical trials with ether cord blood or umbilical cord tissue MSC. The table below checks off all diagnoses that have ever been treated in clinical trials with cord blood or cord tissue, regardless of whether the trials are still open.
8. Arthritis. Also called degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis—the most common form of arthritis—results when protective cartilage in joints wastes away. Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. Stem cells could change that. Scientists are examining how best to use them to rebuild lost cartilage and repair shot joints.
The primary benefit to cord blood banking is that it provides a type of medical insurance. This insurance is not from a financial perspective, but rather takes the form of having the necessary medical building blocks available should they be needed in the event of certain illnesses and diseases. Those medical building blocks are the stem cells found in umbilical cord blood.
2. Diabetes. For the many Americans with type 1 diabetes, whose insulin-making pancreatic cells have been killed off by their immune system, stem cells may be the answer. Last year, scientists reported that they had coaxed human embryonic stem cells into becoming insulin-producing, blood sugar-regulating cells in diabetic mice. The aim: to someday do the same for people.
Cord blood banking means preserving the newborn stem cells found in the blood of the umbilical cord and the placenta. After a baby is born, and even after delayed cord clamping, there is blood remaining in the umbilical cord and placenta that holds valuable newborn stem cells. Parents have a choice between donating cord blood to a public bank for free, or paying to store it for their family in a private bank. Cord blood banking includes the whole process from collection through storage of newborn stem cells for future medical purposes.
Lewis ID, Almeida-Porada G, Du J, et al. Umbilical cord blood cells capable of engrafting in primary, secondary, and tertiary xenogeneic hosts are preserved after ex vivo culture in a noncontact system. Blood.2001;97 :3441– 3449
RENECE WALLER-WISE is a licensed clinical nurse specialist and childbirth educator at Southeast Alabama Medical Center in Dothan, Alabama. She is also an adjunct faculty member at Troy University in Troy, Alabama.
With umbilical cord blood harvesting, the harvested cord blood does not come from the newborn baby itself; instead, the cord blood is harvested from the blood that remains in the umbilical cord after birth. Umbilical cord blood is never harvested from either mother or child, but only from the unused blood in the umbilical cord, which would otherwise be discarded waste. The harvesting procedure takes only a few minutes and there is zero danger to either the parent or the baby.
One of the factors that influence engraftment time is cell dose (Gunning, 2007). Cell dose is directly related to the volume of umbilical cord blood collected. Cell dose refers to the amount of useful stem cells in the sample of blood. Because of the limited volume of cells collected from cord blood, the amount of stem cells in cord blood is approximately 10% less than the amount obtained from bone marrow (Moise, 2005). A single unit of umbilical cord blood usually contains 50 to 200 ml of blood (Gonzalez-Ryan et al., 2000). If an amount of cord blood is less than this minimum volume, the unit is discarded as being unsatisfactory because the cell dose of the sample would not be high enough. Collecting an insufficient volume of cord blood occurs in about 50% or more cases of cord blood collection (Drew, 2005). In general, fewer stem cells are needed for cord blood transplantation, and usually a volume of 50 to 100 ml of cord blood will provide enough of a cell dose for a child or small adult. However, should the recipient need additional stem cells, it is impossible to obtain more stem cells from the infant because the cord blood volume is a limited amount (Percer, 2009).
When you’re pregnant, especially for the first time, you have to make a lot of decisions. Will coffee remain a part of your life? Where are you going to give birth? What are you going to name the baby? What values will you teach him? Do you really need a baby spa bathtub?
Cord blood banking can be complex & difficult to research. To help consumers get started, our editors have spent over 200 hours reviewing the best cord blood registries & making this year’s selections of best all-around providers.
Our secure facility is strengthened by bullet resistant glass, a floor load capacity that can hold 800,000 pounds (16x the standard requirements), a liquid nitrogen tank the size of a 747 jet, one of the largest back-up generators available, and temperature monitoring every 1.6 seconds.
As a result of these advances, it is not unreasonable to hope that cord blood may eventually be used to treat a wider variety of auto-immune and degenerative diseases than is currently being done. If so, (and there are solid indications by researchers that this indeed is the case), it makes perfect sense to consider private cord blood banking.
Prior to transplanting any type of tissue, a “matching” process must occur to increase the success of the transplant and decrease the likelihood that the transplant will be rejected. The rejection of a transplanted tissue is called “graft versus host disease.” The matching process dates back to the late 1950s when the human leukocyte antigens were discovered. There are two classes of human leukocyte antigens. The first class is located on the surface of almost all of the cells with a nucleus within the body of the cell. The second class of human leukocyte antigens is located on the surface of immune cells. Each of the two classes of antigens has three subgroups, creating six antigens for which matching can occur. Thus, a “6 of 6” matching of the antigens represents a “perfect” match. Beyond the matching process, other factors contribute to the success or failure of a stem cell transplant. These factors include, but are not limited to, the age of both the donor and the patient, the type of disease being treated, and the number of stem cells being transplanted (Moise, 2005).
Wall DA, Carter SL, Kernan NA, et al. Busulfan/melphalan/antithymocyte globulin followed by unrelated donor cord blood transplantation for treatment of infant leukemia and leukemia in young children: the Cord Blood Transplantation study (COBLT) experience. Biol Blood Marrow Transplant.2005;11 :637– 646
Prior to the cord blood being harvested you will need to complete a health history questionnaire, and provide a blood sample to check for disease. In most situations, you will also be required to sign a consent form to confirm your intention to have the cord blood harvested.
An additional cost that is borne only by public banks is the “HLA typing” that is used to match donors and patients for transplants. This is an expensive test, running about $75 to $125 per unit. Family banks always defer this test until it is known whether a family member might use the cord blood for therapy.
As a trusted resource for families, CBR offers Genetic Counselors on staff to help families make informed choices about newborn stem cell banking. Our team of certified professionals are available to:
StemCyte™ has extensive experience providing cord blood units for transplants in children and adults with life-threatening diseases. Other private cord blood banks may have provided family-related cord blood for transplants, but only StemCyte™’s cord blood units have been used to 2000 plus transplants to date.
Some brochures advertising private cord blood banking show children with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder, who were treated with their own stem cells. In the case of Cord Blood Registry, the company lists all stem cell transplants conducted at Duke University. In a list of individuals treated in their “stem cell therapy data” cerebral palsy is listed. However, transplants were part of an early research study and studies of efficacy are just now underway.
Public cord blood banking is free, but you give up your rights to the cord blood stem cells at the time of donation. Just like donating to a blood bank, this means your donation would be owned by the public cord blood bank and not by you. Your donated cord blood stem cells can be used for medical research or could possibly save a life through a transplant. Public cord blood banks release your child’s stem cells when a good match from a registry is identified.1
It’s hard to ignore the ads for cord blood banks, offering a lifetime of protection for your children. If you’re an expectant mom, there’s information coming at you constantly from your doctor’s office, magazines, online, and perhaps even your yoga class.
*Fee schedule subject to change without notice. If a client has received a kit and discontinues services prior to collection, there is no cancelation fee if the kit is returned unused within two weeks from cancelation notice; otherwise, a $150 kit replacement fee will be assessed. †Additional courier service fee applies for Alaska, Hawai’i and Puerto Rico. ††Applies to one-year plan and promotional plan only. After the first year, an annual storage fee will apply. Cryo-Cell guarantees to match any written offer for product determined to be similar at Cryo-Cell’s sole discretion. ** Promotional Plan cannot be combined with any other promotional offers, coupons or financing.
Families that are predisposed to certain diseases, that are ethnically mixed, that are adopting a newborn child, or that have a family member who may need a stem cell transplant should take special care to understand the value the cells may provide and their storage options.
All cord blood banks in the US are required to register with Food and Drug Administration. To ensure safety, cord blood banks must comply with FDA regulations, including current good tissue practice regulations, donor screening and testing for infectious diseases, including HIV I & II (the virus that causes AIDS), Hepatitis B & C, which can cause liver disease, Cytomegalovirus (CMV) a virus that can lead to pneumonia, Human T-cell Lymphotropic Virus (HTLV) 1 & 2, which can suppress the immune system, West Nile Virus, Zika Virus, Treponema pallidum (the bacterium that can cause syphilis) and Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), a rare virus that can cause brain disease. Since 2011, the FDA has required public cord blood banks to obtain a license under a Biologics License Application.
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.
The collection of your baby’s cord blood happens the day your baby is born. After delivery it’s standard procedure for your doctor or midwife to clamp and cut the umbilical cord. Using ViaCord’s collection kit, they will then insert a needle into the cord to collect the remaining blood. Once the collection is complete, they will seal the bag, attach the pre-printed label with your family’s information, and place it in the collection kit. A medical courier will pick up the kit from your hospital room and transport it to ViaCord’s state-of-the-art lab and storage facility, where lab specialists will process the cord blood in preparation for long-term storage.
Americord offers parents the ability to collect stem cells from the placenta and umbilical cord soon after the child’s birth. These stem cells, obtained from cord blood, cord tissue and placenta tissue, can be used to help treat genetic diseases and other threats to the baby’s life. Placenta tissue stem cells can also be used to benefit the mother.
When parents donate cord blood to a public bank, they are supporting patients around the world who are searching for an unrelated Allogeneic donor. When parents save cord blood in a family bank, they are reserving the options that the baby can use its own stem cells for an Autologous treatment, or an immediate relative (sibling or parents) can use the stem cells for an Allogeneic treatment.
It depends on who you ask. Although commercial cord blood banks often bill their services as “biological insurance” against future diseases, the blood doesn’t often get used. One study says the chance that a child will use their cord blood over their lifetime is between 1 in 400 and 1 in 200,000.