June 25, 2014
No parent wants to think of their child ever possibly being diagnosed with a life-threatening or life-altering disease. Unfortunately, that is exactly the case for a number of families each year. Wouldn’t you like to give your child an extra health benefit – even a chance for a cure – if an unfortunate diagnosis does affect your family? You might accomplish just that, through umbilical cord blood banking.
Cord blood banking is the process of storing the blood left over in the umbilical cord following birth. The stem cells contained in the cord blood are valuable cells that are used in the treatment of many diseases, illnesses and accidents; in fact more than 80 diseases are being treated today with cord blood stem cells.
There are many advantages when it comes to cord blood banking, especially in comparison to stem cells derived from bone marrow. To start with, the collection of cord blood stem cells, which is done immediately following birth, is quick and completely painless. It also poses no medical risk to either mother or baby. With a bone marrow donation, the donor is put under general anesthesia and may experience pain or discomfort following the procedure.
Another advantage for cord blood banking is that is it, for the most part, ready to use as soon as it’s needed. Once cord blood is collected and sent to a cord blood bank, it is processed and frozen until needed. This means that as soon as the child or a family member needs the blood, it has already been tested and can, in most cases, be transplanted within 24-48 hours. This is in contrast to bone marrow stem cells, which have an average wait time of two months between when (and if) a matching donor is identified and the time of transplant. This is because of the HLA and infectious disease testing required for the donor, as well as the conditioning required prior to donation. In addition, a perfect HLA match is required for bone marrow stem cells transplants.
With cord blood donations, a perfect match is not required for a transplant. This is beneficial to siblings or parents of a child whose umbilical cord blood has been stored in a cord blood bank since they would all be a partial match. A child will always be a perfect match for his or her own stored cord blood. Cord blood also reduces the incidence of graft vs. host disease. Furthermore, underlying viral infections are rare in cord blood transplants. This is due to the fact that the umbilical cord blood cells are immature and have not been exposed to viruses or bacteria.