The blood of the cord is found in the umbilical cord of the baby after birth. Umbilical stem cells can treat many conditions, including certain blood disorders, severe immune deficiencies, and even rare abnormalities in metabolism. They can also be used to treat radiation and chemotherapy side effects, which also kills the good cells found in the bone marrow. Healthy stem cells can replace defective cells and create healthy new blood cells, which can then boost immunity, which can, in turn, help a child cure from a life-threatening disease.
Doctors clamp and cut the umbilical cord as usual after your baby has been born either vaginally or by c-section. Then they can collect blood from the part of the umbilical cord still attached to the placenta. Usually, they draw blood in a large needle inserted into the umbilical cord and without pain. The amount collected is between 1 and 5 ounces somewhere. It is a quick procedure and does not interfere with the baby’s excitement, joy or initial bonding. The blood of the umbilical cord is then sent for processing and storage to a cord bank.
This may feel such as science fiction, however, you can store the blood cells in the umbilical cord blood of your newborn and use them to treat diseases such as leukemia. Cord blood can be stored in two ways. One is to donate it to a public facility where it will be used for anyone who needs the donated cord blood. The other is to store it for the sole use of your family members in a private bank.
The blood of the umbilical cord has special properties. Cord blood contains stem cells that are immature and not programmed to become any other cell type. Stem cell technologies, including leukemia and sickle cell anemia, can be used to treat a variety of serious conditions. These patients often need transplants of the bone marrow. Finding good donor matches can be difficult, and transplants can be painful for patients and donors alike.
Stem cells act as if they were a bone marrow transplant, but with two improvements:
- Stem cells are easier to match because they have not developed restrictions to prevent transplantation safely.
- The donor’s procedure is painless. Cells are collected following the separation of the umbilical cord from the baby.
Private cord blood banking makes sense for some parents to be. If a newborn has a sibling or other family member who may now get benefit from stem cell therapy, the parents may want to give that family member a direct donation. In case our child gets sick down the road, cord blood banking may be an option if we want to save the blood.
The blood is extracted in the same way as it is for a donation with private cord blood banking, but it is stored in a private bank instead of a public facility. The cord blood of our baby can be used only at our discretion and will not be cross-matched for use by others. Thus, the stem cells available from the saved cord blood of my baby may give potential therapy if the child or an immediate family member becomes ill.