Cord Blood


Cord Blood is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta following birth. Cord blood stem cells have the ability to treat the same diseases as bone marrow with significantly less rejection. Cord blood is collected after the baby is born and the umbilical cord has been clamped and cut. It is painless and safe. When cord blood is collected and stored, the stem cells are immediately available for transplantation. Children make up a large portion of the 10,000 individuals each year who are unable to find a transplant in time.

Years of medical research have led to an amazing discovery: the blood in a baby's umbilical cord. First used in transplant in 1988, umbilical cord blood is a plentiful and rich source of stem cells -the building blocks of the immune system- that can be used to treat a variety of life-threatening diseases including leukemia, other cancers, and blood and immune disorders. In just the last few years, hundreds of acutely ill patients have received treatment because of this tremendous medical advance.

Approximately 25% of these transplants have come from siblings, with the rest coming from donated cord blood samples. As more and more families save their cord blood, whether through donation or private storage, these numbers should increase dramatically. According to The Journal of the American Medical Association, &quot10,000 to 15,000 Americans each year who need a (bone marrow) transplant are unable to find suitable donors". Cord blood is an alternative transplant resource. As of the year 2000, more than 2,000 cord blood transplants have been performed worldwide.

Why are doctors turning to cord blood banking instead of bone marrow?

Easier to match -- higher survival
Bone marrow is difficult to match between the donor and recipient because a "perfect match" is usually required. Cord blood immune cells, however, are less mature than in bone marrow and can be successfully used even when there is only a half-match. This means there is more opportunity for transplants between family members when cord blood is stored. Some studies have shown that overall survival rates for related transplants are more than double that of transplants from unrelated donors.

Immediate availability
Banking cord blood ensures that these stem cells can be immediately available if they are needed for treatment. Early treatment of many illnesses can minimize disease progression. According to researchers at Duke University, cord blood transplants could provide possible survival that is unlikely with the more time consuming process of unrelated marrow donation.

Overall, patients who receive cord blood transplants from a relative experience significantly less Graft vs. Host Disease (GVHD), a transplant rejection that is the leading cause of death in stem cell transplant patients. According to one study, the three-year cumulative incidence of chronic GVHD was 6% for matched siblings who received cord blood transplants versus 15% for matched siblings who received bone marrow transplants.

Umbilical Cord Blood
By Kevin Anderson

As soon as a new baby is born, the umbilical cord that connects the baby to the mother is discarded. During pregnancy, this cord is the main source of nutrition for the baby but on delivery this tissue mass is cut and discarded. This is now changing since the time researchers have realized that umbilical cord blood is a major source of stem cells. Stem cells are unspecialized blood cells that produce all other blood cells, including blood-clotting platelets and red and white blood cells. These stem cells are essential to help regenerate blood in the human body. It is an effective cure for diseases that create a blood or immune disorder.

Today, there are over 45 genetic diseases that have been identified as being curable by stem cell transplant. Umbilical cord blood is used in this transplant just like bone marrow. The only difference is that unlike a bone marrow transplant, the umbilical cord blood is of one's own self and is easier to match with the body. When high amount of radiation or cancer-killing drugs destroy the stem cells of the affected patients, stem cells can help rebuild the supply.

Umbilical cord blood is very small in volume, measuring only about 90ml. It has to be extracted immediately after the birth of the child and is stored cryogenically by private or public banks in the same manner as normal blood banks do. The blood is stored only with parental consent and can be kept for private as well as donated to a public bank. Since cord blood use for stem cell regeneration might be more effective and cheaper than using bone marrow an attempt is also being made to develop a cord blood donation program much like the bone marrow donor program.

Kevin Anderson is the owner and operator of a site developed to give users the most updated information, articles, and news related to the Cord Blood and stem cell research.

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