Umbilical cord blood or cord blood is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta post-delivery. At or near term, in preparation for labor, there is a maternal-fetal transfer of cells to boost the immune systems of both the mother and baby. Thus, making cord blood a rich source of stem cells and other cells of the immune system. Cord blood cells help in speeding up the body’s natural healing process and in reinforcing the immune system.
Cord blood banking is the process of collecting the cord blood, extracting and processing its stem cells and other cells for future medical use. In certain parts of the world, cord blood banking is often referred to as stem cell banking. As cord blood collection is designed more to collect stem cells and not the actual blood cells thus, this term seems to be more appropriate.
Earlier to 1990s, the umbilical cord blood was considered as medical waste. Presently, banking of cord blood is on the rise as the stem cells of the cord blood are currently utilized in the treatment of several disorders.
Why Should Cord Blood Be Saved?
- There is a high concentration of stem cells in the cord blood.
- Stem cells are responsible for the development of all tissues, organs, and systems of the body. These cells have the capability of converting into other types of cells which establish new growth and development.
- Stem cells are used to boost and re-populate the cells. They are further considered as the building blocks of the immune system.
- Currently, FDA has approved cord blood as a treatment for approximately 80 diseases of the blood and immune system.
- Banking a baby’s cord blood is an assurance that the parents can have as they know that a valuable resource if needed is available.
- In several patients, cord blood has proved to be life-saving.
Who Can Benefit From The Cord Blood?
- Cord blood drawn from a baby’s umbilical cord is always a perfect match for the baby.
- Apart from the baby, the cord blood can also be a match for immediate family members.
- There are 25 percent chances that the siblings can be a perfect match while 50 percent chances of being a partial match.
- There are high chances of grandparents and extended family members, of being a match.
Which Are The Diseases Treated With Cord Blood?
Stem cells are beneficial in treating several diseases of the immune system, blood disorders, genetic disorders, metabolic disorders, neurologic disorders, and some forms of cancers.
Cord blood can be used in the treatment of the following conditions:
- Multiple myelomas;
- Aplastic anemia &
- Metabolic conditions such as Hurler syndrome and Krabbe disease.
How Is Cord Blood Collected?
- The process to collect cord blood is safe, painless & simple.
- There are no health risks involved with the collection of cord blood.
- The collected cord blood can be stored successfully for several years.
- The collection process takes approximately 10 minutes.
- Cord blood collection fails to interfere with the delivery process as cord blood is collected immediately after the baby is born.
- Collection is possible in both, normal & cesarean deliveries.
- The cord blood bank sends the collection kit to the expectant mother who is to carry the collection kit to the delivery centre.
- The blood collection shall be done by the health care team.
- It is essential that the cord blood is collected during the first 15 minutes after the birth of the baby and it should be processed by the laboratory within 48 hours of collection.
- After the birth of the baby, the umbilical cord is cut and clamped.
- The cord blood remaining in the umbilical cord is drawn into a collection bag with a sterile needle.
- The collection bag should be pre-labeled with a unique number which identifies the baby.
- Later, the collection bag along with the baby’s cord blood is transported to the cord blood bank for long-term storage.
- The cord blood is processed and stored in the laboratory.
- In case, the baby is born preterm or if the clamping of the umbilical cord is delayed then, there are chances that an insufficient amount of blood may be collected which may not be sufficient for storage.
How Is Cord Blood Stored?
Collected cord blood can be stored in either a public or private bank. The decision solely lies with the family.
- The umbilical cord blood is processed & stored for public use or for research.
- Once donated, there are fewer chances that the cord blood shall be available for future private use.
- The donated cord blood can be accessed by anyone who matches.
- There are no storage fees involved.
- Baby’s cord blood is donated to public banks to help other people.
- Donated cord blood & the mother’s blood are tested for genetic, immune & metabolic disorders.
Private or Family banks:
- The cord blood is processed & stored for personal use by the family.
- Only the donor’s family shall have access to the stored cord blood.
- Involvement of long-term storage fees.
What Are The Advantages Of Cord Blood?
Cord blood has immense advantages. Some of the benefits of cord blood are as mentioned below:
- Cord blood is used to treat a huge number of disorders.
- Stem cells from the umbilical cord generate new cells at a faster rate. Cord blood cells multiply very quickly.
- On transplantation, stem cells from cord blood naturally move to the damaged areas.
- Stem cells from the umbilical cord have a much higher chance of adapting to the patient’s system.
- There is possibility of more matches when a cord blood transplant is used.
- There are fewer chances that the stem cells in cord blood shall cause rejection.
- Collection of cord blood is easier & safer.
- Cord blood can be processed and stored & can be used at any time in the long run.
- Stem cells in cord blood can be utilized to strengthen the immune system during cancer treatments.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Cord Blood?
The chief disadvantage of cord blood is that cord blood fails to contain many stem cells. In case a transplant is required in an adult then, units from several donors are to be combined to increase the number of stem cells.
Thus, viewing the benefits offered by cord blood it seems promising to bank cord blood. Banking of cord blood has a potential growth.