Cord blood banking is the name for a relatively recently developed process by which blood from the umbilical cord and the placenta is harvested, processed and then stored for future use in treating a variety of diseases and conditions. The blood is collected just after birth using a method that is painless and entirely safe for both mother and baby.
Why cord blood is important
Cord blood contains stem cells, which have the capacity to replicate themselves and to develop into other types of cells. For example, a healthy immune system depends on the condition of its stem cells, and when there is damage to blood vessels, organs or tissue the introduction of new, top quality stem cells aids repair and recovery. Besides treating immune deficiencies, there’s a possibility of using stem cells to treat and cure a great many other diseases, including genetic disorders and some cancers. This means stem cells are potential lifesavers.
Cord blood benefits
Parents who opt to participate in the process of cord blood banking probably do so for a number of reasons, one of which is that it represents a kind of insurance for the future welfare of their family. Some ethnic or racial groups are more prone to certain diseases than others, for example. When a child becomes ill, it’s an uncertain and anxious time for everyone and if that illness is a serious one, such as leukemia, it can be heartbreaking. Although stem cells from the child who is ill would not be used in this particular case, for fear of reinforcing the disease, those belonging to a healthy sibling are more likely to be a good match and thus suitable for treatment. However, it is not just children that can benefit – adults and older people, including those not related to the donor, can also be treated with good quality, healthy stem cells, making them an exceptionally precious commodity. In studies under laboratory conditions, medical practitioners have been able to heal spinal cords and brains, and to restore damaged cartilage. Besides treating immune diseases, metabolic diseases, blood disorders, heart diseases, liver diseases and cancers such as leukemia, doctors have found that other patients who are unwell regain improved health following treatment using cord blood stem cells. For further information on the benefits of cord blood banking click here.
How it works
Collecting cord blood is easy and risk free. Post-delivery, the umbilical cord is immediately clamped and cut. The blood in the part that is attached to the placenta is then collected by syringe or dripped into a special bag. This is a process lasting a mere ten minutes and a very small amount of blood is collected – between three to five ounces. Once collected, the blood is sent to a cord blood bank for testing and processing. Then it is frozen and stored. Parents can choose to donate the blood to a public bank, where it can be used by anyone who has appropriate medical needs, and for research purposes, or retain it for exclusive family use in a private bank. Storage in a public bank is free, whilst private banks charge an initial collection fee and an annual storage fee.