Cord blood is the blood in a baby’s umbilical cord. Since the discovery that this particular blood contains stem cells that can grow into blood vessels, organs, and tissues, it has become a lifesaving tool for doctors and the entire medical system. What used to be thrown away after birth has now become the vehicle to give even more life after the joyous occasion of a baby’s birth. Cord blood banking is the process of collecting the blood left in a newborn baby’s umbilical cord and placenta and storing it for medical use in the future. Cord blood is collected right after the baby is born and it is painless and safe for both baby and mother. It is done quickly by clamping and cutting, and then removing the blood, which goes immediately into storage.
Cord blood is still being studied by regulatory agencies in Canada and by the FDA in the United States to determine the extent of its usefulness to treat a myriad of diseases and conditions. Testing is underway by the FDA for example, on the possibility of using cord blood to treat a series of other conditions including brain injuries. In the meantime, cord blood is already in use treating dozens of diseases, ailments and conditions in North America and around the world. This includes some cancers, blood disorders, and immune deficiencies. Here are some of the good reasons why cord blood banks are important.
1. Treating cancer
People with cancers like leukemia and Hodgkin’s Disease have to go through treatments like chemotherapy that help the disease go into remission. Sometimes however, this treatment fails and the cancer comes back. That’s when doctors consider a stem cell transplant using cord blood to help create a new blood and immune system and give patients a much better chance of making a full recovery. Stem cells from cord blood are often easier to match with cancer patients and have less chance of rejection by the patient leading to a higher rate of remission and recovery.
2. Treatment for minority groups
This matching process is also much easier for patients from minority groups and once again there is less chance of rejection by the patient when the transfusion is made from cord blood. Many minority groups have a harder time finding stem cell matches in the registry of adult bone marrow donors and have their chances of recovery greatly enhanced by utilizing a cord blood bank. In the United States, a growing number of minorities are taking advantage of this new opportunity. In 2015, 28 percent of Hispanic patients and 33 percent of patients of African American who underwent stem cell transplants received cord blood products.
3. Treating babies and children
Cord blood transfusions are being provided in clinical trials to babies from their own umbilical blood when they develop fluid on the brain which is called hydrocephalus or when they suffer from oxygen deprivation at birth. It is also being tested in trials on other children’s issues like juvenile diabetes and for babies born with congenital heart defects that might require surgery.
4. Treating yourself
Many scientists and researchers now believe that one day we can all be treated with cord blood stored from our own umbilical cords. They think that this will be particularly effective in treating diseases and cancers that are not genetically based. Current work and research is underway in a number of areas including spinal cord injuries, heart failure, stroke, and neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis.
5. Finding a cure
It may still be a way off, but researchers are also positive about their work in treating children with cerebral palsy, using their own cord blood. In a disease that stills affects thousands of children every year, this is a sign of hope for children and parents everywhere. Clinical trials are underway as well for children suffering from conditions on the autism scale and once again researchers are hopeful of their eventual success using cord blood treatments.