June 01, 2015

As you may know as you explore our website and answer the question, “What is stem cell research?”, umbilical cord blood is rich in hematopoietic stem cells. These cells are different from the controversial embryonic stem cells you may have heard about on the news, and are collected in a manner that is safe and painless. Once an expecting mother chooses umbilical cord blood banking during her stages of pregnancy, a kit is sent to her home, which the doctor uses to collect the cord blood during delivery. This cord blood can be used to provide treatments and possibly cures for more than 80 diseases, including types of cancer, leukemia, and anemia treatment.

In addition to being a rich source of hematopoietic stem cells, cord blood also contains progenitor cells. Together, these cells are referred to as “HSPC” within the medical community. When low numbers of these HSPC cells are found in banked units of cord blood, there are solutions. Common ways of ex vivo HSPC expansion or improving HSPC homing to the bone marrow are two common methods. Other methods include optimizing coculture systems, cytokine cocktails, and delivery systems for HSPC-expansion genes. These are ways that stem cell research is improving umbilical cord blood banking.

Cord blood HSPC can be engrafted in the area where they are needed either short-term or long-term. Homing effectors can be used to promote engraftment. Molecules that enhance homing of HSPC may represent a complementary approach to improve and perhaps accelerate engraftment. Optimization of the next generation of HSPC expansion may support a paradigm shift in cord blood transplantation, so that the cord blood cells used may match better with the existing cells in the area in which they are being transplanted.

As this stem cell research continues to expand, umbilical cord blood banking will likely become a more effective option for anemia treatment and therapies for other diseases and disorders. This is why it is important for expecting mothers to consider cord blood banking during their pregnancy stages, because once their stages of pregnancy are complete and they have given birth, it is too late to collect and store their child’s cord blood for possible future use.

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