The Value of Umbilical Cord Blood Banking - The Gift of Life

November 1, 2011

Cord blood stem cells (CBSCs) first appear in the yolk sac of the human embryo, and then migrate to the liver as the fetus develops. The fetal liver continues to produce blood cells until shortly after birth, when the bone marrow becomes the primary factory of blood.

This article was sent to OBGYN.net from ViaCord for the purpose of public education.

The views represented here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Advisory Board of Pregnancy & Birth Section of OBGYN.net

Every day throughout America over 11,000 babies enter our world. With each birth, we have the opportunity to preserve a gift, one as precious as life itself, the stem cells from the newborn child’s umbilical cord. Umbilical cord blood (“cord blood”) is the blood that remains in a newborn

umbilical cord after a child is born. Cord blood contains highly valuable stem cells - special cells that divide and reproduce to form new blood and immune cells. Originally discarded as medical waste, cord blood is now known to have important medical value as a readily available, rich and non-controversial (they are not embryonic stem cells) source of those life-giving cells. Stem cells from cord blood are being used in transplantation therapy to treat over 45 life-threatening or debilitating diseases including certain cancers, such as leukemia and various immune and genetic disorders.

Unfortunately, however, this valuable cord blood is collected and preserved in fewer than two percent of the 4.2 million annual births in the United States. Clearly, more parents need to be made aware of the usefulness of

blood and of the strides being achieved using cord blood stem cells in the treatment of diseases. 

How cord blood stem cells work
Cord blood stem cells (CBSCs) first appear in the yolk sac of the human embryo, and then migrate to the liver as the fetus develops. The fetal liver continues to produce blood cells until shortly after birth, when the bone marrow becomes the primary factory of blood.

When CBSCs are infused into a patient, the cells replicate repeatedly and subsequently transform into various secondary cells at an astounding rate. Thus, they can permanently reconstitute the previously diseased blood, thereby stimulating the immune system.

Banking for the future
While the science behind CBSC transplants is quite complex, collecting and preserving cord blood is extremely simple. After a baby is born and the umbilical cord is cut and no longer connected to the mother or child, doctors collect the blood that remains in the umbilical cord into a sterile blood collection bag. This easy 2 to 4 minute procedure is painless to mother and child and does not interfere with the birthing process. After collection, the blood is tested and cryo-preserved (stored in a frozen state) for future potential use. 

Parents who choose to bank their newborn’s cord blood generally fall into one of three categories: 

  • families who have another child in need of a stem cell transplant
  • families who have a genetic risk, have lost a child to a malignant disease, or have a family member with a genetic disorder or malignant disease in which stem cell therapy might be applicable, and
  • families who understand the future potential of stem cell research and choose to preserve their child’s cord blood stem cells as a precautionary measure, should its use ever be needed within their family.

Cord blood banks have been established worldwide and expectant parents can opt to have their infant’s cord blood collected, regardless of whether their hospital is affiliated with a cord blood bank. The cord blood can be donated for public use, or stored privately for the exclusive use of the child or the child’s family.

Cord Blood Stem Cells - Saving Lives; A Case Study

More and more, we are hearing stories about how cord blood stem cells are saving people’s lives. Today, they are being used in the treatment of over 45 life-threatening or debilitating diseases including certain cancers, such as leukemia and various immune and genetic disorders.

For instance, a 7 year old girl in Florida battled Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) much of her life. A very serious and life-threatening disease, ALL is the most common form of childhood cancer and is diagnosed in about 3,000 children each year in the United States. While awaiting the birth of their second child, the parents learned that a cord blood stem cell transplant might offer permanent remission and a cure for their daughter’s leukemia. Prior to birth, it was determined that the newborn’s blood and tissue type would be a perfect match for their 7 year-old daughter. The parents decided to collect and privately preserve their infant’s cord blood stem cells at delivery. Soon after, the older daughter underwent a transplant using her baby sister’s stem cells. The transplant was successful and after a three-month recovery period, the child returned home and today is doing very well.

For more information on cord blood banking, please speak to your physician or contact ViaCord at 1-866-565-2240 or go to http://www.viacord.com.