What is cord blood?

Cord blood definition

Cord blood is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord following child birth.

What is cord blood made up of?

Cord blood contains the same powerful stem cells that help your baby develop organs, blood, tissue, and an immune system during pregnancy.

After your baby is born, and even after delayed cord clamping, there is blood left over in the umbilical cord that can be collected and saved, or ‘banked.’

It used to be thrown away at birth, but now, many parents choose to store the blood for the future health of their child.

Cord blood is composed of all the elements found in whole blood – red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma, platelets.

However, the interest in cord blood is mostly driven by the observation that cord blood also contains various types of stem cells and progenitor cells, mostly hematopoietic stem cells.

Some non-hematopoietic stem cell types are also present in cord blood, for example, mesenchymal stem cells, however these are present in much lower numbers that can be found in adult bone marrow and umbilical cord tissue.

Why bank your baby's cord blood?

What can cord blood be used for?

Cord blood is used the same way that hematopoietic stem cell transplantation is used to reconstitute bone marrow following radiation treatment for various blood cancers, and for various forms of anaemia. Its efficacy is similar as well.

What diseases and conditions use cord blood treatment?

There are over 80+ conditions and diseases that cord blood can successfully treat. Here are a few examples:

Malignancies

  • Leukemia
  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
  • Lymphoma
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Retinoblastoma
  • Solid tumors

Blood Disorders

  • Sickle cell anaemia
  • Thalassemia Aplastic anaemia
  • Fanconi anaemia
  • Diamond-Blackfan anaemia
  • Amegakaryocytosis Histiocytosis

Immunodeficiencies

  • Severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID)
  • Purine nucleoside phosephorylase deficiency
  • Reticular dysgenesis
  • Wiskott-Aldrish syndrome
  • DiGeorge syndrome
  • Kostmann syndrome
  • Omenn syndrome

Metabolic Disorders

  • Adrenoleukodystrophy
  • Krabbe disease
  • Hunter syndrome
  • Hurler syndrome
  • Sanfilippo syndrome
  • Scheie syndrome
  • Sly syndrome
  • Lesch-Nyhan syndrome

Other Diseases

  • Osteopetrosis
  • Evan syndrome
For the full list of treatments click here

What will cord blood be used for in the future?

Team of Stem Cell Medical Research Scientists Work on a New Generation Disease Cure. They use Microscope, Test Tubes, Micropipette and Writing Down Analysis Results. Laboratory Looks Busy, Bright and Modern.

Clinical trials and research

Stem cells have created such a revolution in modern regenerative medicine that there are 5,185 ongoing clinical trials involving them. These include finding treatments for diseases and conditions such as:

  • Alzheimer’s
  • Autism
  • Bone fractures
  • Brain injury
  • Burns
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Diabetes
  • Hearing loss
  • Heart attack
  • Liver disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Stroke
Click here for the full list

Is cord blood banking worth it?

Pro's

1.) Umbilical cord blood can save lives

Cord blood is rich in stem cells that can transform into all kinds of blood cells. These can be used to treat diseases that harm the blood and immune system, such as leukaemia and certain cancers, sickle-cell anaemia, and some metabolic disorders.

There are a few ways for transplant patients to get blood cells (umbilical and placenta, bone marrow, peripheral/circulation), but cord blood is a 100% match to patients.

The cord blood stem cells can also be used by other family members such as the donor child’s siblings, parents, or grandparents. There’s a 25% chance of a match for siblings and a 50% chance of a partial match.

Because the collection procedure is done after birth, it’s completely painless and safe for both the mother and baby.

2.) Therapies with cord blood have gotten more successful

There are currently over 85 possible diseases and conditions that can be treated using cord blood stem cells.

“The outcomes of cord blood transplants have improved over the past 10 years because researchers and clinicians have learned more about dosing cord blood, picking better matches, and giving the patient better supportive care as they go through the transplant,” says Joanne Kurtzberg, M.D., director of the pediatric bone marrow and stem cell transplant program at Duke University.

3.) Cord blood holds promise for future medical procedures

Scientists are still studying more ways to treat more diseases with cord blood. Some future diseases and conditions that are thought to have successful stem cell treatments are Alzheimer’s, autism, Parkinson’s, diabetes, heart attack and stroke.

At Duke University, for example, researchers are using patients’ own cord blood in trials for cerebral palsy and Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (a condition in which the brain does not receive enough oxygen).

Trials are also under way for the treatment of autism at the Sutter Neuroscience Institute in Sacramento, California.

4.) Your own cord blood will always be accessible

This only applies if you pay to store your cord blood at a private bank such as Blueprint Biobank. The blood is reserved for your own family; nobody else can access or use it, and it will never be allotted to another family or be donated to research.

If you donate your cord blood to a public bank, on the other hand, anyone who needs compatible cord blood can have it; there’s no guarantee that it will be available if and when your family needs it.

Con's

1.) Cord blood banking is not always cheap

It’s completely free to donate blood to a public cord blood bank, but private banks can charge thousands. It is up to you as a parent to choose whether the benefits of stem cell banking outweigh the costs.

At Blueprint Biobank we offer some of the most competitive prices in the industry and invest heavily into making sure the most up to date and effective procedures are in place when dealing with your newborns precious stem cells.

If you would like to see Blueprint Biobank’s pricing, click here.

2.) Your child may never need it

In an ideal future, we all hope your child will never have to use their banked stem cells. They may never need to use them if your family doesn’t have a family history of diseases such as leukaemia, lymphoma, or sickle cell anaemia.

3.) Cord blood can't be used to treat everything

If your child is born with a genetic condition such as muscular dystrophy or spina bifida, then the stem cells would have that condition, says Dr. Kurtzberg.

But if the cord blood donor is healthy and there is a sibling or another immediate family member who has a genetic condition, the cord blood could be a good match for them.

Also. with the large number of clinical trials and research that’s ongoing the future looks promising and new discoveries are being made every day.

Is cord blood banking right for my family?

Cord blood banking is very personal to you and your family. If you’re thinking about banking your newborn’s cord blood, talk about your options with your health care provider.

If you have a family history of illness or your newborn has a sibling with a medical condition that cord blood can treat then you it’s an especially good idea for you to bank their cord blood stem cells.

Collection and storage

Close up Stem Cell Cryogenic Freezing storage in liquid nitrogen tank.

Collection

There are several methods for collecting cord blood. The method most commonly used in clinical practice is the “closed technique”, which is similar to standard blood collection techniques.

With this method, the phlebotomist cannulates the vein of the severed umbilical cord using a needle that is connected to a blood bag, and cord blood flows through the needle into the bag. This makes the procedure 100% safe for the newborn and mother as collection is taken after birth.

On average, the closed technique enables collection of about 75 ml of cord blood.

Storage

Collected cord blood is cryopreserved and then stored in a cord blood bank for future transplantation. Cord blood collection is typically depleted of red blood cells before cryopreservation to ensure high rates of stem cell recovery.

Adverse effects

Cord blood and cancer cells

Adverse effects are similar to hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, namely graft-versus-host disease if the cord blood is from a genetically different person, and the risk of severe infection while the immune system is reconstituted.

This risk is minimised when a parent banks their newborns stem cells with a private cord blood bank as they are a 100% match.

Private and public cord blood banks

Cord blood and cancer cells

Private cord banks

Private cord banks store a unit solely for use by the donor or their family, and most private facilities provide an opportunity for donors to store their cord blood.

This is in the hope that if, in the future, a member of their family becomes sick with a stem cell-treatable disease, there might be a perfectly matched unit available to them. Other private banks collect cord blood in case a child develops a condition that could be treated with their own cord blood.

For this service they charge an up-front collection fee and typically charge a yearly rate for ongoing storage of the cord blood unit. Blueprint Biobank doesn’t charge any additional fee’s after checkout.

Public cord banks

Public cord blood banking supports the health of the community. Public banks collect qualifying cord blood donations from healthy pregnancies and save them in case one of them will be the match to save the life of a patient who needs a stem cell transplant.

Public cord blood banks inculde the NHS Cord Blood Bank.

UK Regulation

The Human Tissue Authority (HTA)

The HTA is a regulator set up in 2005 following events in the 1990s that revealed a culture in hospitals of removing and retaining human organs and tissue without consent.

They regulate organisations that remove, store and use human tissue for research, medical treatment, post-mortem examination, education and training, and display in public. They also give approval for organ and bone marrow donations from living people.

The HTA's role in cord blood banking

Since 5 July 2008, the HTA has regulated the collection, testing, processing, storage, distribution, import and export of cord blood. In the UK these are ‘licensable activities’ and can only lawfully take place under an HTA licence.

 

Any HTA licensable activity must ensure these three key features:

1. CONSENT: In order for cord blood to be collected for banking, the mother must give her consent. The cord blood bank, or someone acting on its behalf under a formal legal agreement, must clearly explain the options, benefits and risks to the mother.

2. SAFETY: All ‘licensable activities’ must be carried out by properly trained professionals on appropriate premises in a way that minimises the risks to the mother, the child, or any patient receiving the cord blood unit.

3. QUALITY: All HTA-licensed cord blood banks must meet minimum standards for quality and safety. It is important to note that beyond, these minimum standards practices can vary between cord blood banks.

History

First cord blood transplant

The first successful cord blood transplant (CBT) was done in 1988 in a child with Fanconi anaemia. Early efforts to use CBT in adults led to mortality rates of about 50%, due somewhat to the procedure being done in very sick people, but perhaps also due to slow development of immune cells from the transplant.

By 2013, 30,000 CBT procedures had been performed and banks held about 600,000 units of cord blood.

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