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For much of pregnancy, the umbilical cord is the lifeline of a fetus, tethering it to the placenta. Snaking through the nearly 2-feet-long cord, there’s a vein ferrying nutrients and oxygen from mom’s blood (via the placenta), plus two arteries carrying oxygen- and nutrient-depleted blood from the fetus back to mom. Because mother’s blood and fetal blood don’t actually mix much, the blood in the placenta and umbilical cord at birth belongs mainly to the fetus.
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.
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.
It’s a less known fact that placental blood is also an abundant source of important stem cells being researched for future medical treatments. Banking placental blood in addition to cord blood with LifebankUSA:
Cord blood is the fastest growing source of stem cells in pediatric transplants, and ongoing research indicates that we’ve only just begun to harness the healing power of these amazing cells.3, 15 By collaborating with some of the country’s leading hospitals and research centers, ViaCord is helping to advance critical research in cord blood stem cell therapy and to unlock the promise of cord tissue stem cells.
However, this does not mean more is better. Cord blood banks we reviewed are similar in terms of the quality of services they provided. Affordable services are still available, especially with the different discount options offered by many of the top cord blood banks reviewed.
CorCell has almost 20 years of experience banking cord blood, cord tissue and DNA. The company is one of the first licensed private cord blood programs in the United States and has its own AABB-accredited laboratory.
5. Alzheimer’s disease. Likewise, embryonic stem cells may come in handy against Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive and deadly disorder that degrades and kills brain cells, leading to memory loss, cognitive decline, and behavioral problems. Stem cells may give rise to new treatments or even, some say, a cure; other experts have expressed skepticism.
The cord blood collection process is simple, safe, and painless. The process usually takes no longer than five minutes. Cord blood collection does not interfere with delivery and is possible with both vaginal and cesarean deliveries.
Certain public cord blood banks let you mail in your cord blood. You have to decide before the birth if you want to donate your cord blood. If the hospital where you’re delivering doesn’t accept donations, you can contact a lab that offers a mail-in delivery program. After you’ve passed the lab’s screening process, they’ll send you a kit that you can use to package your blood and mail it in, explains Frances Verter, Ph.D., founder and director of Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation (parentsguidecordblood.org), a nonprofit dedicated to educating parents about cord blood donation and cord blood therapists.
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.
Depending on the predetermined period of storage, the initial fee can range from $900 to $2100. Annual storage fees after the initial storage fee are approximately $100. It is common for storage facilities to offer prepaid plans at a discount and payment plans to help make the initial storage a more attractive option for you and your family.
Private (commercial) cord banks will store the donated blood for use by the donor and family members only. They can be expensive. These banks charge a fee for processing and an annual fee for storage.
Anak S, Saribeyoglu ET, Bilgen H, et al. Allogeneic versus autologous versus peripheral stem cell transplantation in CR1 pediatric AML patients: a single center experience. Pediatr Blood Cancer.2005;44 :654– 659
The main disadvantage of cord blood transplants is that they take at least a week longer to “engraft”, which means repopulate the patient’s blood supply so that cell counts reach minimum acceptable levels. The longer engraftment time is a risk because it leaves the patient vulnerable to a fatal infection for a longer time.
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.
Nagatoshi Y, Kawano Y, Okamura J. Comparison of the outcomes of allogeneic bone marrow transplantation from partially mismatched related donors, matched sibling donors, and matched unrelated donors in Japanese pediatric patients: a single center result. Pediatr Transplant.2004;8 :260– 266
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.)
Lamaze International has created a continuing education home study based on this article. Visit the Lamaze Web site (www.lamaze.org) for detailed instructions regarding completion and submission of this home study module for Lamaze contact hours.
Please tell us a little about yourself. A Newborn Stem Cell Educator may call to discuss your options and answer any questions you may have. You may also receive additional information about saving or donating newborn stem cells.
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
Additional ethical concerns about umbilical cord blood banking involve the timing of clamping the umbilical cord after birth. Overall, the issue of when to clamp and cut the umbilical cord is controversial. There is no consensus on how early or how late in the birthing process the umbilical cord ought to be clamped and cut, although the cord obviously still provides nourishment and removes waste until it is clamped or spontaneously stops pulsing (Lothian & DeVries, 2010). However, some practitioners might clamp the umbilical cord early in an effort to maximize the amount of cord blood obtained for banking, and thus “short change” the child and allow the infant to become anemic (Drew, 2005).
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.
Families with a history of diseases can store cord blood in a bank. These families can access it should a person get sick with an immune system or blood disease, like leukemia or sickle-cell anemia, later in life.