Saving stem cells from the child’s umbilical cord which may be used in medical transplants is called “cord blood storage.” The cells in the cord blood include hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) and hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPC). Cord blood storage can be used to treat over 80 diseases, including cancers like lymphoma and bone marrow. In comparison with other sources, removing stem cells from the umbilical cord is completely safe for the mother and does not affect the growth of the child either. This cord blood collected can be stored successfully for many years.
Current clinical trials and treatments administer cord blood cells in a patient’s body to repair damaged tissue while speeding up the healing process to treat major diseases. However, parents and families still have mixed feelings on removing stem cells from the umbilical cord and cord blood storage owing to myths surrounding the idea.
Some firmly believe removing stem cells from the umbilical cord will mean the child will lose vital stem cells needed for growth. Also, some parents emphasize on delayed cord clamping hold onto their beliefs and notion that choosing to delay the cutting of the child’s umbilical cord will help the blood to drain back into their baby and prevent future iron deficiencies. The cord blood can still be useful in case of delayed cord clamping that lasts less than 5 minutes, wherein the umbilical cord will have still 25% of the blood left for storage to help in stem cell transplants in cases of blood cancer.
How does cord blood banking/storage work?
When a child is born, its umbilical cord is clamped, and the medical staff will move this cord to another room. The blood from the cord is later removed and placed into a temperature-controlled storage container and shipped via a private medical carrier to the storage facility. The stem cells are then removed from the cord blood and put into a long-term cryogenic storage, available to use when needed.
If you have decided to store your child’s cord blood in a private storage facility, then only your family will have access to these stored stem cells. It is to be noted that parents donating the cord blood will not have any control over the stem cells extracted. However, they will receive notifications from the public bank if the cells donated are being used to treat a patient.
Advantages of Cord Blood
The cord blood units are too valuable to be discarded as waste. Many researchers believe that these stored stem cells can be used to treat various diseases. Dozens of clinical trials are conducted every day to promote advancements in stem cell sciences and therapies.
This gives you many reasons to bank your baby’s stem cells than ever before. It will protect them in the future from various diseases, such as cancer, metabolic and immune disorders, and blood diseases.
If your family has a history of genetically transmitted diseases, like lymphomas, leukaemia, sickle-cell anaemia, thalassemia and immune deficiency disorders, then you should be considering the odds of someone from your family needing a stem cell transplant in the future. In such cases, cord blood storage is worth a second thought.
Regenerative medicine is a relatively new field of medical science that uses cells and tissues to treat many severe medical conditions. Cord blood cells can be stored either in a private or public bank. In public banks, the family donates the cord blood of their baby free of charge to a central facility for anybody’s use, as and when the need arises. So the cord blood stored in a public bank is not specifically for family-member-use only.
Whereas in private banks, the cord blood can be retained for the use of your child, family members, or for near and dear ones only. Hence, some people term this as “biological insurance.” Despite the expense of collecting and storing cord blood in private storage facilities being high with slim chances of the need for them in the future, some families with genetic medical history do opt for it.
The private cord blood banks facilitate an annual fee payment and collection charge. Always check for the pricing options, financial stability of the private blood bank, and storage facility considerations, before you sign on the dotted line.
Factors to consider before choosing a cord blood storage facility:
- Check if it’s private or public, well-reputed, certified and if it follows all quality standards for cord blood storage.
- Check if the cord blood storage facility is well-networked, accessibility, and has tie-ups with hospitals. This is necessary to ensure that it can deliver the stored cord blood immediately when the need arises.
- Check if the storage facility is protected from fires and other natural calamities. Also, check if it has power-backup and if all necessary monitoring systems are in place to ensure a controlled environment all the time.
- Check for technical skills and expertise of professionals at the cord blood storage bank.
- Check if standard tests, like cell counts and counts of sterility, are being performed at cord blood storage bank before the blood is stored.
Please note, cord blood has to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures (lower than -180 degree Celsius) in a special freezing bag. Arrangements for storing the cord blood should be made in advance in consent with the medical practitioner before delivery. Accurate instructions should be provided to the medical staff and doctor if you choose to store the blood in a private bank or donate it to a public facility.
Stay aware and protected, to look at alternative means to save the generation of the future. Be aware to harness the potential of regenerative medicine.