What makes cord blood special? As we approach World Cord Blood Day on November 17, we look at why umbilical cord blood banking is attracting so much attention.
Stem cells have been in the medical news spotlight for decades, and it’s not surprising.
The first cord blood stem cell transplant, an international effort between physicians in the U.S. and Europe, was performed in France in 1988. Stem cells collected from a newborn’s umbilical cord blood were used to save the life of her brother, a 5-year-old with Fanconi Anemia.
Since then, there have been more than 40,000 cord blood transplants performed worldwide.
Cord blood stem cells are amazing.
They have a natural ability to:
Turn into different types of cells such as blood, tissue, nerve, and bone cells
Make copies of themselves
Replace damaged cells with healthy ones.
Access to an invaluable medical resource
Since the cells in cord blood haven’t been exposed to potentially harmful factors impacting stem cells collected later in life, saving the pristine cells moments after your baby is born could prove to be an invaluable medical resource for your family in the future.
What Is Cord Blood Used For Today?
Cord blood has been used in transplant medicine for thirty years and can be used in the treatment of over 80 diseases including:
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia | Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma | Neuroblastoma
Sickle-cell anemia | Cooley’s anemia | β-thalassemia intermedia
Fanconi anemia | Diamond-Blackfan anemia | Juvenile dermatomyositis
Hurler syndrome | Tay-Sachs Disease | Krabbe disease
Severe combined immunodeficiency | DiGeorge syndrome | Reticular dysplasia
Ongoing Clinical Trials Using Cord Blood
Over the last few years cord blood use has expanded into regenerative medicine clinical trials for conditions once thought untreatable, such as:
Regenerative Medicine Clinical Trials
Autism | Cerebral Palsy | Type 1 diabetes
Let’s dive deeper….
So what is cord blood?
It’s the blood left inside the umbilical cord and it contains powerful hematopoietic stem cells.
What is cord tissue?
Your baby’s umbilical cord is made of tissue. This tissue is home to several cell types, including mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which scientists think may be great at acting like a body’s emergency medical team.
Umbilical cord tissue is full of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), one of the most widely researched cell types in the rapidly evolving area of regenerative medicine.
MSCs have the ability to respond to inflammation and help repair tissue damage primarily by communicating with other cells in the body via sending and receiving signals.
What is newborn stem cell preservation?
Both cord blood and cord tissue are rich sources of powerful stem cells. Newborn stem cell preservation is the process of saving the blood and tissue from the umbilical cord, after birth, for potential future use.
Who can potentially use my newborn’s cord blood?
When a patient is treated with their own cells, it is defined as an autologous transplant; if they receive cells from a donor the transplant is allogenic.
In the UK, parents can choose to store their baby’s cord blood privately, or donate to a public bank.
Private banking is the only way to guarantee that matching stem cells are available should your child or matched relative ever need a haematopoietic stem cell transplant.
It is particularly important to store privately if a member of your family has a condition such as sickle cell disease, which can be cured with matching HSCs. Some families also choose to store cord blood to treat an older relative who has received a blood or immune disease diagnosis.
For other conditions however, there may be a genetic predisposition to that disease, and in these cases a patient may not be able to use his or her own stem cells. In this situation a matched sibling’s stem cells would be the first choice before looking for alternative donors.
For most families, cord blood and tissue storage is an insurance policy they hope never to use. The steady rise in life-enhancing as well as life-saving stem cell therapies, however, suggests we may all use regenerative treatments one day.
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BSc (Hons) Microbiology
Biovault Family CEO, Kate Sneddon, joined Biovault in July 2009 and became Chief Executive Officer in 2016. As health industry professional her experience includes working as a microbiologist and leader at GSK for over 10 years. Her expertise in cord blood banking has been recognised in her awards, features in Parliamentary Review and Parents Guide to Cord Blood, as well as contributions to research with UCL and others.