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After injections with their own umbilical cord blood, 63 children with cerebral palsy improved on motor skills, on average. And a clinical trial to see whether cord blood transplants improve symptoms of children with autism spectrum disorder should wrap up in the summer of 2018, says pediatric researcher and clinician Joanne Kurtzberg of Duke University, who helped establish a not-for-profit umbilical cord bank in North Carolina. (A small but optimistic pilot study has already been completed.)
Parents often complain about cord blood banking costs. This is not an industry where costs can be cut by running a turn-key operation. Each cord blood unit must be individually tested and processed by trained technicians working in a medical laboratory.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics don’t recommend routine cord blood storage. The groups say private banks should only be used when there’s a sibling with a medical condition who could benefit from the stem cells. Families are encouraged to donate stem cells to a public bank to help others.
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.
Finally, there is a significant lack of regulation for umbilical cord blood banking. The lack of quality control, in turn, affects the quality of the specimen available for transplant. Some cord blood banks have submitted to voluntary accreditation, but the process of accreditation varies from bank to bank, whether public or private (McGuckin & Forraz, 2008; Moise, 2005).
Stem cells in the umbilical cord blood were first discovered in 1978. The stem cells found in cord blood give rise to all the other blood cells and are the foundation of our bodies’ immune system. More recently, scientists discovered a rich supply of a different type of stem cell in the cord tissue. These stem cells give rise to the tissues that comprise our nervous system, sensory organs, circulatory tissues, skin, bone, cartilage and more.
Direct-donation umbilical cord blood banks function as an amalgamation of public and private banks. Direct-donation banks collect cord blood without charging fees. In addition, they accept autogenous donations and reserve them only for the family, especially for a family whose infant has a sibling with a disorder that may be treated with umbilical cord blood stem cells (Moise, 2005).
Parents have the option to privately store their newborn’s cord blood stem cells. There are now over a dozen private cord blood banks, and more open every year. Some have their own labs, while others contract with a lab. Cord blood stem cell banking is not a regulated industry; there are no certifications or licensing requirements to open a cord blood bank. Several banks are accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks. Please keep in mind there is a big difference between being accredited by the AABB and being a member of the AABB. To be accredited, the lab must follow strict standards and be inspected by the association.
Because of their ability to regenerate, umbilical cord stem cells may provide the answers to conditions such as various forms of heart disease and diabetes. Medical researchers studying umbilical cord blood stem cells have recorded several positive observations in animal studies, including instances where cord blood stem cells have improved vascular functions in injured tissue, as well as blood flow and improved overall heart function.
There are no health risks related to cord blood collection. Cord blood is retrieved from the umbilical cord after it has been cut, thus preventing any pain, discomfort, or harm. This process is completely safe.
Several of these groundbreaking trials only use cord blood stem cells processed by Cord Blood Registry as a way of ensuring consistent quality. That means, saving with Cord Blood Registry gives families access to more uses and treatments.
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.
Americord offers parents the ability to save stem cells from the umbilical cord and placenta after giving birth. This blood banking service uses new technology to ensure that children can receive treatment for genetic diseases. Find out more
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 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.
Since 1988, cord blood transplants have been used to treat over 80 diseases in hospitals around the world. Inherited blood disorders such as sickle cell disease and thalassemia can be cured by cord blood transplant. Over the past decade, clinical trials have been developing cord blood therapies for conditions that affect brain development in early childhood, such as cerebral palsy and autism.
Umbilical cord blood stem cells are different from embryonic stem cells. Umbilical cord blood stem cells are collected by your ob-gyn or a nurse from the umbilical cord after you give birth (but before your placenta is delivered). Embryonic stem cells are collected when a human embryo is destroyed.
Anthony’s doctors found a match for him through the New York Blood Center’s National Cord Blood Program, a public cord blood bank. Unlike private banks, public banks do not charge to collect cord blood, they charge a patients insurance company when cells are used. And once it is entered in the public system, the blood is available to anyone who needs it.
“Processing” refers to separating the important components of the whole cord blood before cryopreservation. There are many methods used to process cord blood that can achieve the same goal: storing the important cells for potential future use. However, it’s important to point out some differences between methods:
After the baby is delivered, according to the procedures of cord blood banking, the umbilical cord is initially clamped and then cut out in the natural and usual manner. Here, the procedure for clamping and cutting remains the same for vaginal deliveries and c-section deliveries. However, while convening the procedure, make sure to get it done under the supervision of a competent and efficient professional.
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
Some parents-to-be are sold on the advertising that banking their child’s cord blood could potentially treat an array of diseases the child, or his siblings, could encounter in their lives. Other parents-to-be may find all the promises too good to be true.
Ballen KK, Kurtzberg J, Lane TA, et al. Racial diversity with high nucleated cell counts and CD34 counts achieved in a national network of cord blood banks. Biol Blood Marrow Transplant.2004;10 :269– 275
A cord blood industry report by Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation found that, among developed nations, cord blood banking cost is only 2% of the annual income of those households likely to bank.
Unless we are hiking in the forest, mountains, or living at the side of a waterfall or undisrupted seashore, our bodies tend to be in the acidic state given to the fact that our physical bodies are made of 60% water fluid. You cannot really get acidic or alkaline cracker because there is no or very little % of water.
While some companies may advertise their cord tissue preservation service as “treatment-ready”, this is a misnomer. In the U.S. there are currently no treatments available that use cord tissue cells. Without knowing what the treatment protocols may look like in the future, preserving the cord tissue sample whole today means that all of the available cell types in this precious resource may be available to your family in the future.
Most stored cord blood is discarded. At public cord blood banks, a unit of stored cord blood has a greater chance of being used to help a sick child or used toward stem cell research. Private cord blood banks, on the other hand, eventually throw away blood that a family no longer wants to store or use.
Current applications for newborn stem cells include treatments for certain cancers and blood, metabolic and immune disorders. Additionally, newborn stem cell preservation has a great potential to benefit the newborn’s immediate family members with stem cell samples preserved in their most pristine state.
Barker JN, Weisdorf DJ, DeFor TE, Blazar BR, Miller JS, Wagner JE. Rapid and complete donor chimerism in adult recipients of unrelated donor umbilical cord blood transplantation after reduced-intensity conditioning. Blood.2003;102 :1915– 1919
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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).
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.
Cord blood holds promise for future medical procedures. Scientists are still studying more ways to treat more diseases with cord blood. At Duke University, for example, researchers are using patients’ own cord blood in trials for cerebral palsy and Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (a condition in which the brain does not receive enough oxygen). Trials are also under way for the treatment of autism at the Sutter Neuroscience Institute in Sacramento, California.
Why should you consider donating the cord blood to a public bank? Simply because, besides bringing a new life into the world, you could be saving an individual whose best chance at life is a stem cell transplant with your baby’s donated cord blood. This can only happen if you donate and if your baby is a close enough match for a patient in need. If you chose to reserve the cord blood for your family, then siblings who have the same parents have a 25% chance of being an exact match.
2 Cordblood.com, (2014). Cord Blood Stem Cell Banking | Cord Blood Registry | CBR. [online] Available at: http://www.cordblood.com/cord-blood-banking-cost/cord-blood-stem-cells [Accessed 22 March. 2017].
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Quite simply, cord blood is the remaining blood from your baby’s umbilical cord and placenta after birth. Cord blood is loaded with our “stem cells” which are origins of the body’s immune and blood system and maybe the origin of other organs and important systems in the body. Stem cells are important because they have the ability to regenerate into other types of cells in the body.
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).
In the past years, there have been dramatic medical advances in the arena of stem cell research, and more discoveries are announced practically every month. Many doctors and researchers see great potential in the use of stem cells to reverse or cure many severe, life-threatening diseases. With these facts in mind, many parents are choosing to preserve the stems cells found in umbilical cord blood after birth. There are no health risks in doing so. The primary risk is that the $100 yearly fee for storage will be wasted in the event that the stem cells are never needed.