May 21, 2014

In October of 1988, Matthew Farrow, a then five-year-old with rare blood disorder called Fanconi anemia, made medical history – he received the world’s first transplant with cord blood stem cells. The stem cells he received were acquired from his baby sister’s umbilical cord blood. The cord blood from a blood sibling has a 1 in 4 chance of being a match. After the transplant his condition improved dramatically.

Since the time of Matthew’s transplant, stem cell research has helped to transform medicine. In 1993, a two-year-old named Mitch Santa was cured of leukemia after a cord blood stem cell transplant and in 1995, the first adult was cured of the disease from the use of a cord blood. In December of 1998, Keone Penn was cured of sickle cell disease by a cord blood transplant, making him the first person to be cured of the disease through the use of cord blood. Another example, in 2004, a six-month-old child became the first child to receive a transplant of his own cord blood to cure medulloblastoma, a malignant brain tumor. These are just a small sampling of the thousands upon thousands of patients whose lives have been saved or radically improved through the use of cord blood.

There have been more than 30,000 cord-blood transplants world-wide to treat more than 80 diseases and research is under way with new advances and medical discoveries all the time. For example, the use of stem cells to treat brain injuries, cancers, fatal skin conditions and some types of diabetes are among the treatments currently being studied.

Today, nearly 2 million cord blood units are stored in private family banks, such as CariCord. This blood, full of rich stem cells, is stored in cryogenic freezing tanks (called dewars) in cord blood banks (also called repositories), ready for use by the donor or possibly by their family members as needed.

Sadly though, more than 95 percent of newborn cord blood is discarded at birth. This is an unfortunate statistic, as the chances that a person will require a stem cell transplant by the age of 70 is now estimated to be, 1 in 217. Cord blood banking could be the answer for many families.

The federal government regulations now require public banks to secure a Biologics License Application (BLA) approval, in order to license (as a drug) the cord blood donations it receives, with documentation on processing, donor screening, storage and sterility and pass a site inspection before being approved. This is a great distinction from private banks, which the FDA requires only the registration of their company name and address, as well as what they intend to do with the blood. CariCord is the ONLY private cord blood bank in the United States to process in a lab that has had its BLA approved by the FDA and offers the same FDA-approved processing for its private clients as well.

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