August 1, 2014
When researching cord blood banking for your child you will read over and over all the positive news about cord blood being used in the treatments of dozens of diseases. But one thing you don’t often hear is how the process works. So, what are doctors and researchers doing with cord blood and how does it cure diseases?
The first thing to understand is that cord blood contains adult hematopoietic stem cells. This type of cell is what gives rise to all the other blood cells in the body. These nonspecific cells have the ability to form into any type of specific cell in the body and can also act as a type of “self-repair” kit, replacing or healing damaged cells in the body. Their ability to transform or regenerate into healthy cells make them ideal for use in transplants to cure or treat diseases.
Cord blood stem cells are used to treat more than 80 diseases and disorders, including cancers, blood, autoimmune and metabolic disorders, inherited diseases, and more. Cord blood stem cells can restore the cells that have been damaged or destroyed by these diseases.
Once a patient is diagnosed with a disease or disorder that is treatable with cord blood stem cells, he or she undergoes tests, screenings and conditioning to ensure that a transplant has the potential to be a success. Once that is complete the stem cell transplant can begin. The process is in many ways like a blood transfusion; the cord blood stem cells are administered through an IV catheter while the patient is awake and, other than the initial needle stick to start the IV, it is a painless process.
Stem cells have the ability to migrate to diseased or damaged tissue and initiate the healing process. Shortly after the transplant, the stem cells will engraft and begin multiplying. Typically, it takes two to six weeks to see the results in blood cell counts. Patients are usually given antibiotics during this time to fight off any infections while the body’s red and white blood cells continue to build. If it was an allogeneic transplant, the patient will also be monitored for graft vs. host disease. The recipient will continue to be monitored by his or her healthcare provider following the procedure.
Cord blood is a powerful resource in the treatment of so many diseases and it has the power to cure. Understanding its potential helps you, as parents, make the right decision when it comes to giving your child the best chance at a healthy future.