Cord blood is a sample of blood taken from a newborn baby’s umbilical cord. It is a rich source of hematopoietic stem cells, which are precursors to blood cells. As such, they have been used to treat certain diseases of the blood and immune system. The next largest group is inherited diseases (of red blood cells, the immune system and certain metabolic abnormalities.) Patients with lymphoma, myelodysplasia and severe aplastic anemia have also been successfully transplanted with cord blood.
Cord blood is collected from the umbilical cord vein attached to the placenta after the umbilical cord has been detached from the newborn. Cord blood is collected because it contains stem cells, including hematopoietic cells, which can be used to treat hematopoietic and genetic disorders. One unit of cord blood generally lacks stem cells in a quantity sufficient to treat an adult patient. The placenta is a much better source of stem cells since it contains up to ten times more than cord blood.
Umbilical cord blood
Umbilical cord blood is blood that remains in the placenta and in the attached umbilical cord after childbirth. Cord blood is collected because it contains stem cells, which can be used to treat hematopoietic and genetic disorders.
Umbilical cord blood is the blood left over in the placenta and in the umbilical cord after the birth of the baby. The cord blood is composed of all the elements found in whole blood. It contains red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma, platelets and is also rich in hematopoietic stem cells. There are several methods for collecting cord blood. The method most commonly used in clinical practice is the “closed technique”, which is similar to standard blood collection techniques. With this method, the technician cannulates the vein of the severed umbilical cord using a needle that is connected to a blood bag, and cord blood flows through the needle into the bag. On average, the closed technique enables collection of about 75 ml of cord blood.
Cord Blood Bank
Collected cord blood is cryopreserved and then stored in a cord blood bank for future transplantation. A cord blood bank may be private (i.e. the blood is stored for and the costs paid by donor families) or public (i.e. stored and made available for use by unrelated donors).
While public cord blood banking is widely supported, private cord banking is controversial in both the medical and parenting community. Although umbilical cord blood is well-recognized to be useful for treating hematopoietic and genetic disorders, some controversy surrounds the collection and storage of umbilical cord blood by private banks for the baby’s use.
Only a small percentage of babies (estimated at between 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 200,000) ever use the umbilical cord blood that is stored. The American Academy of Pediatrics 2007 Policy Statement on Cord Blood Banking states that: “Physicians should be aware of the unsubstantiated claims of private cord blood banks made to future parents that promise to insure infants or family members against serious illnesses in the future by use of the stem cells contained in cord blood”
Benefits of Cord Blood
Thinking about saving your baby’s cord blood? You’re not alone and chances are you have lots of questions: Does it make sense for your family? Which bank should you choose? Is it worth it?
The fact is, cord blood stem cells are doing amazing things today — healing serious diseases and changing lives for the better. And thanks to a vital research community, the treatment potential for cord blood continues to grow.
Your baby’s cord blood stem cells have the amazing power to heal. Nearly 80 life-threatening diseases — from cancers to blood diseases to immune disorders — can be treated today using cord blood stem cells. The proven effectiveness of these amazing cells has made cord blood the fastest growing source of stem cells in pediatric transplants, and thanks to advancements in research its treatment potential continues to expand.