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A guide to umbilical Cord stem cell storage

For most expectant parents, their baby’s future health and safety is a priority. That’s why umbilical cord blood banking is increasing in popularity. So what does the procedure involve and why should you give it serious consideration?

What is umbilical cord blood banking?

Umbilical cord banking involves removing some of the blood from your baby’s umbilical cord at birth and placing it into a stem cell storage facility at a privately run blood bank.

When it is extracted from the cord, the blood is collected in a bag. The blood contains three main components:

• red blood cells
• plasma
• buffy coat layer

The red blood cells and plasma are effectively waste products. However, the buffy coat layer is a thin layer that falls between the red blood cells and the plasma and it is this that contains the all-important stem cells. The blood and cord samples are collected, bagged and frozen. They are then stored in the blood bank, until such time as they are needed.

What’s special about umbilical cord blood?

Umbilical cord blood is very rich in stem cells, which have the ability to transform into virtually any type of human cell. Two types of stem cells are found in umbilical cord blood:

• haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs)
• mesenchymal stromal stem cells (MSCs)

HSCs are found in the blood that passes through the umbilical cord to your baby, and MSCs are found in the umbilical cord itself. HSCs can be used in the treatment of blood-related diseases, and MSCs could be used for regenerative treatments including the production of bone and cartilage tissue.

This means that if your child ever became sick with certain diseases, such as leukaemia, lymphoma, and sickle cell anaemia, these potentially life-saving cells could be used to effect a treatment or cure. The cells could also be used to treat a sibling or other relative.

It is also believed that stem cells could be used to treat life-altering illnesses such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cerebral palsy, and heart disease.

The benefits of harvesting cord blood

Cord blood and bone marrow both contain the same kind of HSC stem cells, but those harvested from cord blood have a few advantages. Cord blood stem cells are less mature than those taken from an adult’s bone marrow, meaning that they are less likely to be rejected by a recipient’s body.

Removing umbilical cord blood is a simple and painless procedure, unlike bone marrow donation, which can be painful and invasive.

What about your baby’s umbilical cord

As well as storing your baby’s umbilical cord blood stem cells, you may also choose to store some of the cord tissue itself. The cord tissue is a very rich source of MSCs that could potentially be used to regenerate damaged or diseased soft tissues or bone. For example, if your child needed knee replacement surgery in the future, cord tissue stem cells could be used to grow new cartilage or bone.

Although this work is currently still in its infancy, you may want to preserve part of your baby’s umbilical cord for future use, should the need arise.

Why choose to bank your baby’s umbilical cord blood and stem cells?

The field of research into the discovery and use of MSC stem cells is ever expanding. By choosing to have your baby’s cord and blood banked you are taking out a kind of ‘insurance’ against certain serious diseases and medical conditions that could affect your child in its later life. Your baby’s stem cells could also be used to treat his or her siblings, should the need arise.

For more information about the process of blood and stem cell banking and to find out how your child could benefit, contact the experts at Stem Protect today.