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What Is Cord Blood Banking And Why Should I Consider It?

What Is Cord Blood Banking And Why Should I Consider It?

Cord blood banking means storing the stem cells found in the blood of the umbilical cord and placenta after a baby is born.

Shaun Mansfield, Stem Cell Scientist, Biovault Family

Cord blood contains haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) that can be used to treat diseases of the blood and immune systems such as leukaemia and neuroblastoma. Storing your baby’s stem cells privately gives you access to these precious cells so that if your baby or matching family members ever need a stem cell transplant you are prepared. Shaun Mansfield, Stem Cell Scientist at Biovault, said: ‘With now over 35,000 umbilical cord blood units transplanted worldwide for an ever expanding list of therapies the potential for umbilical cord blood is clear. This precious source of cells for therapeutic use is still routinely discarded as clinical waste, despite the value already being evident.’

What Are Cord Blood Stem Cells?

Stem cells are the parent cells of all other cells in our bodies. The umbilical cord and the blood it contains after a baby is born are a uniquely rich and accessible source of stem cells. These newborn stem cells are more potent and flexible than the adult stem cells found in bone marrow and as they are not embryonic stem cells they are non-controversial. Birth offers the only opportunity to store cord blood and tissue; the umbilical cord and placenta are otherwise discarded as medical waste.

Why Bank Cord Blood Stem Cells?

The first cord blood stem cell transplant took place in 1988, and cord blood is now routinely used to treat over 80 life-threatening diseases. Inherited blood disorders such as sickle cell can be cured with cord blood transplantation and clinical trials are developing therapies for conditions that affect brain development in childhood, such as autism and cerebral palsy. Our understanding of stem cells and their medical potential is growing rapidly and stem cells collected at birth are set to play a key role in the future of regenerative medicine.

How Is Cord Blood Collected?

Your cord blood bank should provide you with a cord blood collection kit ahead of your due date to pack with your hospital bag. After your baby is born, and when you and your baby are safe and comfortable, your midwife, doctor or phlebotomist will collect the blood remaining in your baby’s clamped umbilical cord and placenta in the same way as you give blood. Your cord blood sample is then stored in controlled packaging and delivered by courier to your cord blood bank.

Can I Bank Cord Blood And Delay Cord Clamping?

Yes, you can bank cord blood after delayed cord clamping so that your baby benefits from the healing properties of cord blood now and in the future. After your baby is born cord blood is a finite resource, so you may wish to discuss with your midwife the optimum period of delay to optimise the success of both delayed clamping and cord blood collection.

What About Umbilical Cord Tissue?

Some cord blood banks also store cord tissue because it is rich in mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Like the HSCs in cord blood, MSCs are able to renew and differentiate to create new specialist cell types. Whereas HSCs develop into blood cells, MSCs differentiate into tissues, such as bone, nerve, tendon and muscle. It is hoped that in the future MSCs will play an important part in a variety of medical and clinical procedures to regenerate damaged or diseased tissue.

How Should I Choose A Cord Blood Bank?

When comparing cord blood banks, it is a good idea to consider:

  • Accreditations: Do they satisfy statutory requirements? Do they exceed these?
  • Clinical experience: Have they released samples for transplant? Were the transplants successful?
  • Testimonials: What do other parents say about the service each bank offers?
  • Values and ethos: Will the people at this bank look after you when you need them?

The Parents’ Guide to Cord Blood offers an unbiased comparison of UK cord blood banks.

We would like to thank the team at Biovault for providing their specialist knowledge for this article.

 Biovault Family

Biovault Family
Plymouth International Medical & Technology Park
24 Brest Road
Plymouth, PL6 5XP
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 1752 753723

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