Cord blood is blood from a newborn baby that is found in the umbilical cord and placenta after birth. The blood in the umbilical cord contains stem (blood-forming) cells that can be used to treat some diseases. These stem cells have the potential to grow into blood and immune system cells as well as many other types of cells, including bone marrow, neurons and heart tissue. The blood-forming stem cells found in cord blood make new blood cells to replace old ones in the body and are extremely beneficial in treating some very serious illnesses. Blood containing stem cells may be collected from an umbilical cord and placenta after a baby is born. The blood is frozen and stored at a cord blood bank for future use.
Benefits of Cord Blood
Stem cells from cord blood are highly adaptable and are less likely to be rejected by the recipient's immune system than stem cells taken from the bone marrow of an adult donor. The blood-forming stem cells found in cord blood are currently used to treat conditions including:
- Leukemia and other cancers
- Genetic diseases
- Immune system deficiencies
- Blood disorders
Blood-forming stem cells are transplanted into a patient and those cells go on to produce new, healthy blood cells and enhance the patient's blood-producing and immune system capability. Depending on the condition that is being treated, stem cells collected from cord blood have the potential to become specific cells, such as muscle cells, blood cells, and brain cells and have the ability to aid in organ function throughout the body. In the future, with additional research, doctors anticipate treating even more conditions with stem cells, including heart disease, arthritis, spinal cord injuries, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.
Collecting Cord Blood
Collecting and storing a child's cord blood after birth is a safe and painless procedure. The process used to collect cord blood is simple. After birth, the umbilical cord is clamped. A needle is used to draw the blood from the cord and it is then stored in a sterile sealed bag. After the bag is sealed, the placenta is delivered. The process takes about 10 minutes. Cord blood can either be stored for use publicly or privately.
Public Cord Blood Banks
Public cord blood banks work like regular blood banks. The cord blood is collected for later use for anyone who may need it. The cord blood is tracked in a database so that a unit can be found quickly when needed. Public banks do not charge a fee to collect or store cord blood. Donors to public banks must be screened, however, before birth.
Private Cord Blood Banks
Private banks store cord blood for specific directed donation. The blood is held for use in treating only the baby or relatives of the donor. Private banks most often charge a collection fee and a yearly fee for storage of the blood.
While it is the parent's decision about how they want to store the cord blood, most medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend public donation of cord blood whenever possible. This option is often recommended because many diseases cannot be treated with a person%u2019s own stem cells and the chance that cord blood stem cells will be needed to treat the donor or a relative is extremely low.