With these words, Charis Ober, executive director of Save the Cord Foundation welcomed expectant parents, healthcare professionals, scientists and the general public to World Cord Blood Day 2019.
World Cord Blood Day (#WCBD) is dedicated to advancing cord blood awareness and education around the world. Parents were invited to join a virtual lab tour and hear from patients whose lives who have been saved by cord blood transplants as well as the scientists and doctors involved in developing new treatments for conditions as varied as spinal cord injury and HIV.
Education is key
Education is key, WCBD’s tagline, correctly makes the point that too few expectant parents receive accurate cord blood information before their baby is born and it is too late.
Too few parents receive accurate cord blood information in time for their baby’s birth
Last year the first integrative review of parents’ knowledge, awareness and attitudes to cord blood was published in the BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth Journal. The study found that although cord blood banking and donation have been options for parents for more than a quarter of a century, “knowledge and awareness of these options, and consistency of information provided to parents, remains low.”
50% of participants could not correctly identify the uses of cord blood
The review found that parents were given inconsistent information about cord blood banking and cord blood use. “This inconsistency,” the researchers concluded, “created awareness and knowledge deficits and arguably prevents parents from making informed choices.”
Parents need to be given cord blood information as part of routine antenatal education
We argue that cord blood banking should be incorporated into health professional curricula and antenatal education.Peberdy L et al, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine
More parents are choosing to preserve cord blood privately
The study showed that parents viewed cord blood preservation as an “investment for future use, insurance or protection for their child or family.”
Cord blood transplants are increasing
Dr Joanne Kurtzberg is a pioneering paediatrician and specialist in haematology, oncology and umbilical cord blood and tissue. Her keynote speech for WCBD19 began with the story of Matthew, a young boy who, in 1988, was dying of Fanconi anaemia. Dr Kurtzberg organised for her patient to go to Paris to be treated by Eliane Gluckman, a stem cell specialist who had conducted extensive research into umbilical cord blood stem cells. Matthew received what “gift of life” from his younger sister – a cord blood transplant that opened “a new frontier in the treatment of over 80 life-threatening diseases.”
30 years of and 40,000 transplants later, cord blood is a lifeline to those requiring a transplant because of its availability, reduced risk of Graft versus Host Disease and lower risk of relapse for certain diseases.
Treatments for cerebral palsy, stroke and severe autism are on the horizon
Dr Kurtzberg predicted that developing therapies for conditions including cerebral palsy, a trial for which Biovault Family are involved, stroke and severe autism could result in exponential demand for cord blood preservation.
Stem cells in cord tissue are also being trialled for use in regenerative medicine and may potentially be used to repair “many organs and organ systems”. Asked when we may see these treatments in our hospitals, Dr Kurkzberg replied, “the process always feels like it takes too long.. in 5 to 10 years.”
Dr Kurtzberg gives advice to parents expecting a child
“I would say cord blood and tissues are valuable and if you can find a way to donate or save for your own family it is way better than allowing them to be thrown away. Cord blood can help someone over time… Not throwing the cord blood away should be your primary objective.”