The decision of whether to save your newborn baby’s cord blood stem cells can sometimes be overwhelming for first time expecting parents. But choosing to collect your baby’s umbilical cord blood at birth and store it privately with a cord blood bank can be a life-changing one. It is also a once-in-a-lifetime chance, a unique option that is only available at the time of birth.
Since the first cord blood transplant done in 1988, more than 40,000 cord blood transplants have been performed worldwide treating over 85 medical conditions including fanconi anaemia, sickle cell anaemia, leukaemia, multiple myeloma, krabbe disease, thalassemia, and more.
Cord blood banking might sound complicated for first-time parents-to-be, but the truth is that it only involves a few simple steps. It starts with signing up with a private cord blood bank and bringing the collection kit on your day of delivery. After the umbilical cord is clamped and cut away, the doctor or midwife will perform the cord blood collection, pack it back on the collection kit and the courier will ship it to the cord blood bank’s lab for testing, processing, and storage. Below is a useful video of the step-by-step guide to saving your baby’s cord blood:
One of the best ways to decide whether you will save the cord blood or not is to weigh the benefits and disadvantages of cord blood banking. The most common reasons why many parents decide to save the cord blood are:
- Family history of disease
- To prepare for a healthy future
- Recommendation by medical expert
- Mixed race / ethnic minority
You may also encounter a lot of speculations surrounding the topic and, in this article, we have put together some of the most common cord blood banking myths and misconceptions, which we hope will provide you with much needed information while you make your decision.
If I need a stem cell transplant in the future, I can get the stem cells from a public bank
If the patient’s own cells (autologous) are not available for use, stem cells from a sibling or a family relative are usually considered the best option. In fact, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that the one-year survival rate for the patient treated with a sibling’s cord blood is 63%. If using umbilical cord blood from an unrelated donor, the survival rate drops to 29%. Additionally, the use of unrelated cord blood can put the patient at a much greater risk of the fatal Graft Versus Host Disease, 20% versus 5%.
Related cord blood also reduces the risk that the transplant sample may harbor genetic problems that could cause disease in the recipient because the family will know the genetic history. There is no guarantee that there will be a stem cell available in a public bank in the future and searching for a suitable genetic match can be time-consuming and may not necessarily be the BEST match for the patient.
Cord blood collection takes important blood away from my baby
One of the biggest advantages of cord blood banking is that it should not interfere in the birth of your baby in any way. The umbilical cord is normally discarded after the delivery of your baby. Cord blood collection is only done after the safe delivery. Even if you want to delay clamping the umbilical cord, you can still collect the cord blood. The collection procedure is done by the doctor or midwife while the cord blood processing and storage is done by the private cord blood bank. You simply need to bring the collection kit on your day of delivery.
WATCH VIDEO: UMBILICAL CORD BLOOD COLLECTION PROCEDURE
Transplant doctors would rarely use the baby’s own stem cells to treat disease
One can use their own cord blood stem cells (Autologous transplant) to treat diseases that have non-genetic cause or that are environmentally triggered (i.e. acute myeloid leukemia, many forms of hodgkin’s lymphoma, myeloma, solid tumours, and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and crohn’s disease). Autologous cord blood transplants have been used to treat neuroblastoma, aplastic anaemia, and lymphoblastic leukaemia. In addition, a person can use their own umbilical cord blood to reconstitute the bone marrow after chemotherapy treatment of a non-blood related cancer.
Cord blood use in regenerative medicine is also beginning to move from the lab to the bedside. Family banks provide an important service in this respect. The children who have stored samples are able to participate in the clinical trials. Additional clinical research is showing promising results when using one’s own stem cells in the treatment of conditions such as heart and stroke, ALS, alzheimer’s disease, parkinson’s disease, and spinal cord injuries.
The chances of my family ever needing a cord blood sample are exceptionally low
Considering that the cause of most cancers is unknown, and that the science of stem cell therapy is expanding rapidly, it is difficult to accurately calculate the odds that a family will use the cord blood or benefit from new treatments. However, according to medical research, the odds that a child will someday need to use his or her own newborn stem cells for current treatments are estimated at 1 in 400*. Odds that the newborn or a family member may benefit from banked cord blood are estimated at 1 in 200*.
These odds do not include the emerging and potential use of newborn stem cells to treat heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and spinal cord injury. The continued progress in medical treatments would greatly increase the likelihood of use by your baby throughout her life.
Read more useful articles:
Useful Tips for Successful Cord Blood Banking in UAE
Why Expectant Parents Save the Umbilical Cord Blood
How Can Storing Cord Blood Affect Your Baby's Future?
4 Best Practices for Signing Up to Cord Blood Banking
*Pasquini MC, Logan BR, Verter F, et al. The Likelihood of Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HCT) in the United States: Implications for Umbilical Cord Blood Storage. Blood. 2005;106(11)"What was a discard has become valuable-indeed priceless to many children with leukemia, and perhaps in the future to children with AIDS and autoimmune diseases, such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis."- Science, Vol. 268, May 12, 1995.