Cord blood is the blood from the baby that is left in the umbilical cord and placenta after birth. It contains special cells called hematopoietic stem cells that can be used to treat some types of diseases. Cord blood can be donated to a public bank for use by anyone who needs it stored in a private bank (sometimes called a “family bank”) for your baby’s or family use.

Hematopoietic Stem Cells

Most cells can make copies only of themselves. For example, a skin cell can only make another skin cell. Hematopoietic stem cells, however, can mature into different types of blood cells in the body. They are not the same as embryonic stem cells, which come from an embryo, but they are very similar. Hematopoietic stem cells are found in blood and bone marrow in adults and children.

Using Stem Cells to Treat Disease

Hematopoietic stem cells can be used to treat over 70 types of diseases including diseases of the immune system, genetic disorders, neurological disorders, and some forms of cancer, including leukemia and lymphoma. For some of these diseases, stem cells are the primary treatment. For others, treatment with stem cells may be used when other treatments have not worked or in experimental research programs. Using the stem cells in cord blood to treat a disease has the following benefits compared with using those in bone marrow”

Stem cells from cord blood can be given to more people than those from bone marrow. More matches are possible when a cord blood transplant is used than when the bone marrow transplant is used. In addition, the stem cells in cord blood are less likely to cause rejection than those in bone marrow.

  • It is harder to collect bone marrow than it is to collect cord blood. Collecting bone marrow poses some risks and can be painful for the donor.
  • Cord blood can be frozen and stored. It is ready for anyone who needs it. Bone marrow but be used soon after it is collected.
  • Stem cells in cord blood can be used to strengthen the immune system during cancer treatments. Bone marrow stem cells do not have this capability.

Other uses for cord blood stem cells are being studied. Cord blood stem cells may someday be used to regrow tissues that have been injured by disease or other causes. A disadvantage of cord blood is that does not contain many stem cells. Units from several donors can be combined to increase the number of stem cells if a transplant is needed for an adult.

Finally…

The stem cells in cord blood can be used to treat some diseases and in research studies of new treatments. Public cord blood banks store cord blood for use by anyone who needs it. You are contributing to the overall supply of cord blood when you donate to a public bank. Private banks store cord blood for use by your baby or family members. You should know all of the facts about cord blood banking before making a decision about storing or donating your baby’s cord blood. Contact us if you have any questions or to schedule and appointment.