Newborns Cord Blood Stem Cells

In the past, cord blood, also known as umbilical cord blood, was simply discarded when a baby was born. Now, however, research has found that cord blood can serve a significant purpose in stem cell research.

Many new parents are now choosing to save their newborns’ cord blood in a process that is referred to as cord blood banking or cord blood storage. Parents who bank cord blood choose to do so as a precaution in case of a serious disease befalls their child in the future.

How Banking Cord Blood Can Benefit Your Child

Cord blood can be valuable if a child:

  • develops some type of childhood cancer
  • needs bone marrow
  • suffers from other serious diseases.

Cord blood can supply blood-forming stem cells, the same types of cells provided by bone marrow donors. These cells develop three types of blood cells:

  • platelets
  • red blood cells
  • white blood cells.

Each of these has also been found to be capable of forming other types of cells.

In cases of serious diseases like cancer, chemotherapy and radiation can kill even healthy cells in patients, leading to the need for these blood-forming stem cells.

Cord Blood Collection

Parents will need to decide before their baby is born whether or not they want to go through with cord blood storage. If parents decide to bank their baby’s cord blood, the storage or banking facility will provide a kit for cord blood collection, which is usually done by a doctor or nurse after the baby is delivered.

This process is less effective during cesarean section (C-section) births, as doctors and nurses must address the surgical and health concerns of the delivering mother before collecting cord blood. The more cord blood collected, the more blood-forming stem cells are preserved.

After the cord blood is collected, a courier takes it to the banking facility. There, the stem cells will be separated from the umbilical cord remains and then cryogenically stored (frozen in liquid nitrogen). They are stored until the time comes that they are needed, in which case they are thawed and used as necessary in medical procedures.

Donating Cord Blood

Some new parents choose to donate their new baby’s cord blood to nonprofit organizations. This can contribute to stem cell research and possibly save the life of a child. However, keep in mind that, once cord blood is donated, it is gone and no longer available for your child’s use, should (s)he need it in the future.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Cord Blood Banking

Cord blood banking can be especially beneficial for those with a family history of a serious condition or disease, especially one that can be treated with a bone marrow transplant or donation.

These diseases include:

  • anemia
  • leukemia
  • lymphoma
  • severe combined immune deficiency
  • sickle cell anemia.

Cord blood banking may also be beneficial for those with adopted children, children conceived through in-vitro fertilization or children from minority groups, as it can be more difficult to find donor matches for these groups.

However, for babies not born into a family with a history of serious disease, cord blood banking is not usually necessary. The odds that the blood-forming cells will be needed are far less for these children.

In addition, the procedure is expensive, generally costing between $1,000 to $2,000.

Resource

Kids’ Health (2008). Banking Your Newborn’s Cord Blood. Retrieved February 7, 2008, from the Kids’ Health Web site.