What is cord blood banking

By Cell Care

93% of expectant mothers want to know about cord blood banking

Pregnancy and birth is a busy time for parents with many things to consider. One important consideration that is often overlooked is storing your baby’s cord blood stem cells for potential medical use.

A recent survey of over 1,800 pregnant women by the University of Sydney revealed that 93% believe expectant mother should be informed about cord blood banking during their pregnancy1.

To answer some common questions, we asked the Medical Director of Cell Care, Professor Mark Kirkland, about cord blood storage.

What is cord blood and cord tissue storage?

Cord blood banking is the process of saving the blood left over in your newborn baby’s placenta. Cord blood is rich in stem cells which are the building blocks of all cells in the body. Cord blood stem cells can be used to treat medical conditions such as leukaemia and immune disorders for your child and compatible siblings.

You only have one opportunity to collect and store your baby’s cord blood – at birth

Cord tissue banking is the most recent advancement in stem cell storage. This involves storing a small piece of the umbilical cord itself. Cord tissue contains mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) which are different to the stem cells found in cord blood. MSCs form bone, muscle, cartilage and nerve cells and many clinical trials are underway investigating the power of these cells.

What does the process involve?

It’s easy to arrange your cord blood and tissue collection. Request your free Cell Care cord blood and tissue information pack here. Once enrolled you will be sent a collection kit that you take to the hospital. At the time of birth, your Cell Care collector, obstetrician or midwife will collect the cord blood and tissue. The collection process takes about 5 minutes and is painless to mother and baby.

What happens to the blood once removed?

Once collected, the blood and tissue is then couriered to a specialised laboratory and storage facility. At the laboratory, the important cells, including stem cells, are cryogenically stored at -196oC.

How long does it last?

Tests have shown that cells remain viable through this process, and the evidence suggests they can be stored indefinitely and thawed back into healthy potent cells when needed. Most people choose to store over 18 or 25 years.

What costs are involved?

Prices vary depending on whether you choose to store cord blood and or tissue or pay upfront or spread the payments over many years. It’s really easy for people choose an option that suits them. For the cost of a cup of coffee per day, storing your baby’s stem cells provides peace of mind at a reasonable price.

What are the benefits of storing cord blood and tissue?

Cord blood is currently used in place of bone marrow transplants to treat blood cancers such as leukaemia and some immune disorders.

The benefits of storing cord blood are many:

  • Collection is simple and painless for both mother and baby
  • Once stored it is available immediately for treatment
  • There is no need to locate a compatible donor
  • No invasive procedures compared to bone marrow sampling from a sibling
  • Your baby’s cord blood stem cells are a perfect match for your child, and are more likely to be a match for siblings than an unrelated donor

What could cord blood possibly be used for?

Diseases that have been treated by cord blood include cancers such as acute and chronic leukaemia, solid tumours and lymphomas, blood disorders such as anaemias and thalassemia, immune disorders and metabolic disorders.

Worldwide, cord blood has been used in over 35,000 transplants in the treatment of over 80 conditions. In Australia, over 500 cord blood units have been released to treat many conditions here and abroad.

Are new findings continuing to be discovered?

Research is underway in Australia and around the world that could see cord blood used in many conditions.

In 2015, as part of a clinical trial at Westmead Hospital in NSW, a 4 year old girl was the first in the world to have her cord blood infused to prevent or delay the onset of type 1 diabetes.

Australia’s first clinical trial of stem cell infusion from sibling cord blood as a possible treatment for cerebral palsy (CP) has commenced. The safety trial, led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), will recruit patients nationally and take place at The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.

Expected to take two years, the study is being funded by the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation and Cell Care. It is the first step in a promising process that eventually aims to find out whether cord blood infusion is both safe and efficacious for children with the condition.

Do your homework

All expectant mothers should do their own research and investigate cord blood stem cell storage. Your obstetrician is an excellent source of advice!

References:

  1. Birth. 2014 Dec;41(4):360-6. Knowledge, beliefs, and decisions of pregnant Australian women concerning donation and storage of umbilical cord blood: a population-based survey.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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