Are you expecting a baby?
You grab every available book on the subject of pregnancy. You leave no stone unturned. You want to be well informed. Naturally.
Jason and his wife were no different. They thought they had it all covered-that is until a few weeks before the expected date of delivery. That is when a program on television changed their lives. The program dealt with cord blood banking. “Just another gimmick”, thought Jason initially. However, after intensive research, there was no denying that cord blood banking was a major development, medically speaking. In fact, so convinced were Jason and his wife that they decided to harvest cord blood during the birth of their child. Little did they realize what a momentous decision that was. That blood would save their child’s life, many years down the line. Cord blood banking can be a lifesaver for your family too.
What is Cord Blood Banking?
Cord blood banking is a breakthrough in blood banking. It involves the collection and storage of blood from the umbilical cord, which connects the baby to the mother in the womb. Discarding cord blood, along with the remaining umbilical cord and the placenta, was standard procedure. However, the discovery that cord blood is a rich source of stem cells revolutionized medical perception. Cord blood is now considered to have immense therapeutic value. The best part is that these stem cells can be conveniently collected from the umbilical cord after birth, without harming either the mother or the child.
Cord Blood is a safe and ethical source of stem cells
What makes cord blood stem cells so special? Stem cells have two unique capabilities. They can multiply to produce more stem cells. A small number of stem cells can be nurtured to generate a substantial number. The stem cells can also transform into any mature adult cell, potentially giving any failing organ a second chance at life. Stem cells are a valuable resource. The umbilical cord on can be a rich source of stem cells with distinct advantages.
Cord Blood Banking is not Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Unfortunately, controversy surrounding embryonic stem cell research undermines the concept of cord blood storage and adult stem cell research. Unlike embryonic stem cell research where developing embryos are the source for harvesting stem cells, cord blood stem cell research only uses those stem cells discarded from the umbilical cord after the delivery of the baby. There is no loss of life, as neither the mother nor the baby comes to harm in any way. Cord blood stem cells are highly suitable for therapeutic purposes.
Ethically sensitive concepts like cloning require younger stem cells. These stem cells are called embryonic stem cells and they must be destroyed in order to pursue any research. Cord blood stem cells are more mature and are called adult stem cells. They are not useful in controversial fields of stem cell research, therefore donating cord blood does not violate any ethical principle.
Cord Blood Banking: Another chance at Regeneration
The first umbilical cord blood transplant was done by Professor Gluckmann in 1989. Cord blood from a sibling was used to save a patient of Fanconi’s Anemia. Over the last two decades, umbilical cord blood has been used to treat more than 75 conditions including cancers, bone marrow failures, low immune states, genetic disruption in metabolism, heart disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis and some autoimmune conditions.
The list is growing steadily.
Apart from these uses, cord blood stem cell research has shown promising results in heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and even diabetes. Stem cells can regenerate lost pancreatic tissue which can secrete insulin. We may be able to eradicate diabetes with just a shot of compatible baby stem cells from cord blood. The possibilities are unfolding rapidly.
Cord blood from a family member is superior to stem cells from bone marrow transplants because it doubles chances of success. Using one’s own cord blood, or blood from a family member, eliminates the chances of failure of treatment. A simple decision in pregnancy can provide a ready source of stem cells with no doubts about incompatibility. Cord blood banking provides a chance to renew the stem cells of the affected organ.
Common Misconceptions about Cord Blood Banking:
Although cord blood is a valuable resource, these benefits are not well known. A recent study, published by the Canadian Medical Association, noted that more than half the expectant parents had poor knowledge or misconceptions about cord blood banking. The most common misconception was that cord blood donation could harm the child. The study also noted that a simple explanation sufficed to convince them about the advantages of cord blood donation. Impressed with the evidence available, thirteen states have passed laws to help educate pregnant mothers and support public cord banking. Cord blood donation and preservation can now be carried out at no extra charge. Immediate family members of the donor then have access to suitable matches if the need arises.
How do you donate cord blood?
Cord blood banking starts before the actual date of delivery of the baby. Once you register with a cord blood bank, they send you a kit, containing all the necessary equipment for collecting cord blood, along with instructions for the attending physician, midwife or nursing staff. After severing and clamping the umbilical cord in the middle, post partum collection and storage of the remaining blood from the placental end of the cord, follows. A special container carries the cord blood to the cord blood bank. Here special separators separate the stem cells in the blood. Storage is at very cold temperatures. The baby suffers no loss or harm through this procedure, as there is no blood collection from that end.
Choose the Right Cord Blood Bank
The most crucial decision is to choose the right private cord blood bank. This is a long-term investment. Make sure that the cord blood bank has the finances and a long-term commitment to the project. Verify the accreditation of the organization and ensure that they have a clean track record. Ask whether they store the blood themselves or rely on a third party to support them. Make sure that the blood will be available quickly, without delay, when you need it most. You can also donate cord blood to a public bank, which then uses the donated blood for patients awaiting treatment. However, though you have no claim over the donated blood, you will have access to a larger pool of stem cells. In private banks, your cord blood is stored exclusively for your use.
Umbilical cord blood banking was relatively unknown two decades ago. Now cord blood banking is on the forefront of modern medical research and treatment. Cord blood banking is a safe and ethical source of stem cells. Preserving cord blood is a step towards protecting the health of your child, your family and our society.