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Only three to five ounces of blood is collected from each umbilical cord. This small amount is enough to treat a sick child, but not an adult, unless multiple units of matched cord blood are used, says William T. Shearer, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Pediatrics and Immunology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
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.
Cord blood is extracted from a newborn’s umbilical cord immediately after birth. It contains stem cells, which can be used to treat hemotopoietic and genetic disorders, like certain blood or immune diseases.
Both public and family cord blood banks must register with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and since Oct. 2011 public banks also need to apply for an FDA license. All cord blood banks are required by federal law to test the blood of the mother for infectious diseases. At public banks the screening is usually more extensive, similar to the tests performed when you donate blood. The typical expense to a public bank is $150 per unit.
A history of releasing cord blood units for therapy. “This shows they’re not just selling contracts to parents — there are doctors who are actually accepting units of cord blood that have been stored there for therapy,” says Frances Verter, Ph.D., founder and director of Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to educating parents about cord blood donation and cord blood therapists.
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.
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.
These are diseases for which transplants of blood-forming stem cells (Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplants, HSCT) are a standard treatment. For some diseases they are the only therapy, and in other diseases they are only employed when front-line therapies have failed or the disease is very aggressive. The lists below include ALL therapies that use blood-forming stem cells, without distinction as to whether the stem cells were extracted from bone marrow, peripheral blood, or cord blood.
The potential powers of these cells have researchers excited. But what that scientific hope means for expectant parents facing decisions about cord blood banking is far from clear. For all of the promise, there are lots of reasons why umbilical cord cells may turn out to be less useful than thought. Read my next post for more about these potential drawbacks.
These are diagnoses for which stem cell treatments are being studied either in the laboratory with cell cultures or in animals that mimic the human disease. The experimental therapies are not yet in human clinical trials. In experimental research, it is often not clear whether an eventual therapy, if developed, would be Autologous or Allogeneic.
Although cord blood is currently considered discarded human material, it should only be collected for banking with an institutional review board–approved protocol and with signed informed consent from a parent.42,43 Pertinent donor information communicated to the cord blood bank should be kept confidential by the cord blood bank and used only to report important medical information obtained during the cord blood collection, processing, and screening process that is relevant to the safety of the donor and family. If cord blood was collected from a newborn who subsequently developed a genetic, immunologic, or malignant neoplastic disorder, parents should notify the cord blood bank so that the unit is not used for transplantation. All cord blood units banked for potential use should be tested for infectious diseases, similar to those tested in a blood bank, and for hereditary hematologic diseases. The informed consent must contain information pertaining to what tests are to be performed on the cord blood and how the parents will be informed if test results are abnormal. Pediatricians should be aware that legal cases relating to the duty of a physician to warn parents about the risks of inheriting a genetic disease are new and untested. Pediatricians should remain vigilant, because future cases may define who has a legal duty to notify parents about genetic abnormalities identified during cord blood testing. Informed consent should be obtained before the onset of active labor and before cord blood collection.
A few years ago, cord blood was simply discarded as medical waste after a birth. However, in the past few years, doctors have recognized that the stem cells have unique qualities which can be used in the treatment of certain cancers. The most common medical use is for transplantation in many situations where bone marrow is considered. In the future, it is possible that scientists will discover more diseases that can be cured with cord blood.
Cord blood therapies have gotten more successful, and they also hold the promise of future innovative medical procedures for conditions like cerebral palsy and autism. Currently, cord blood can be used to treat diseases that harm the blood and immune system, such as leukemia and certain cancers, sickle-cell anemia, and some metabolic disorders. It’s an even more valuable resource for ethnic minorities, who statistically have a harder time finding stem cell matches in the registry of adult bone marrow donors.
Many private banking proponents think that by storing your baby’s cord blood stem cells, you are positioning your family with a form of biological insurance in the event that your child or a close family member has a treatable disease.
Priority shipping: Cord blood companies that use priority shipping services have families ship them cord blood in a heavily insulated box, which arrives at the cord bank at a certain time, but does not guarantee that the blood remains at a certain temperature.
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.
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.
If you want the blood stored, after the birth, the doctor clamps the umbilical cord in two places, about 10 inches apart, and cuts the cord, separating mother from baby. Then she inserts a needle and collects at least 40 milliliters of blood from the cord. The blood is sealed in a bag and sent to a lab or cord blood bank for testing and storage. The process only takes a few minutes and is painless for mother and baby.
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The choices expectant parents make today go beyond finding out the gender of their baby. They span beyond deciding whether to find out if their child, still in the womb, may potentially have a genetic disorder. Today, many parents must decide whether to store their baby’s umbilical cord blood so it will be available to heal their child if at any point in the child’s lifetime he or she becomes sick.
1. As today’s children grow up and some of them develop cancer as adults, autologous (self) cord blood transplants will become more commonly used. Pediatric cancers and adult cancers are completely different diseases at the cellular level (to learn more about cancer visit the website of the National Cancer Institute). While pediatric cancer patients rarely receive autologous transplants, among adult cancer patients the autologous transplants are more common than transplants from donors.
AABB accredited: Some cord blood companies have received extra accreditation from the AABB, or the American Association of Blood Banks, which means they meet a certain standard of service and accuracy of work.
Umbilical cord blood was once thought of as a waste product. Now, years after the first successful umbilical cord blood transplant, more families seek information about whether or not to save their newborn’s cord blood. Childbirth educators may be one of the main sources that an expectant family depends on to gain more knowledge about cord blood banking in order to make an informed decision. Preserving umbilical cord blood in public banks is advisable for any family; however, it is recommended that expectant families only consider private cord blood banking when they have a relative with a known disorder that is treatable by stem cell transplants. The childbirth educator is encouraged to be well versed on the topic of cord blood banking, so that as questions from class participants arise, the topic can be explored and addressed appropriately.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP, 2007) states that the use of banked umbilical cord blood as “biologic insurance” is unwarranted. The AAP also notes that many of the claims of private cord blood banks are unfounded. Unlike ACOG, the AAP recommends cord blood collection and banking for all families; however, their distinction is that all cord blood should be banked in public banks for use by the general population. In one study, the researchers reported that when pediatric transplant specialists were surveyed, overall, they did not recommend private cord blood banking (Thornley et al., 2009). The AAP recommends private cord blood banking only if a full sibling has a medical diagnosis for which stem cells are currently being used for treatment.
A typical cord blood collection only contains enough stem cells to transplant a large child or small adult. This website has a page explaining the optimum transplant dose. At one time it was believed that cell dose limitations restricted the use of cord blood transplants to children. In recent years growing numbers of adults are also receiving cord blood transplants, either by growing the cells in a lab prior to transplant or by transplanting more than one cord blood unit at a time. More information about these trials is available on the web page about Research on Cord Blood Transplants.
The procedure of cord clamping can be delayed for a considerable period of time. However, the delay has to be a brief one. It cannot be delayed more than one or two minutes. If the procedure of clamping the cord is delayed for too long, the blood present in the cord might clot and once the blood clots it does not benefit anyone. Neither does it help your baby nor can it be collected for storage.
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.
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.
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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.
When you consider that public banks can only expect to ship 1-2% of their inventory for transplant, you can quickly understand why most public banks are struggling to make ends meet. That struggle means that fewer collection programs are staffed, and there are fewer opportunities for parents to donate to the public good. We said earlier that public banks only keep cord blood donations over a minimum of 900 million cells, but today most public banks have raised that threshold to 1.5 billion cells. The reason is that the largest units are the ones most likely to be used for transplants that bring income to the bank. Family cord blood banks do not need to impose volume thresholds because they have a profit margin on every unit banked.
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.
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.
Your own cord blood will always be accessible. This applies only if you pay to store your cord blood at a private bank. The blood is reserved for your own family; nobody else can access or use it, and it will never be allotted to another family or be donated to research. If you donate your cord blood to a public bank, on the other hand, anyone who needs compatible cord blood can have it; there’s no guarantee that it will be available if and when your family needs it.
There are two main types of cord blood banks: public and private. Public cord blood banks are usually nonprofit companies that store your donated cord blood for free, to be used for any sick child in another family or for research purposes, so accessing and using your own cord blood is not guaranteed. Private cord blood banks are companies that require a registration fee (plus annual storage fees) for your cord blood, but it is saved specifically for your own family, so you’ll have ready access to it.