Labour & Birth
Cord Blood Collection
Cord blood is the most stem cells dense and least invasive source of stem cells from the human body. The stem cells in cord blood can be used in the treatment of over 80 serious illnesses including blood cancers, solid tumours, metabolic conditions, and blood disorders
Cord blood stem cells are preserved in their optimum condition, they haven’t been exposed to the elements or had the opportunity to degenerate in the same way as stem cells procured from an adult body. Additionally, your baby’s cord blood stem cells are a perfect match to your baby.
What makes cord blood stem cells even more special is that they can be more easily matched to someone else than stem cells from other sources. When a patient needs a stem cells transplant, doctors will use HLA matching to ascertain the best match between a patient and donor. Bone marrow stem cells must match 5 out of 6 tissue typing criteria in order to be suitable for transplant, however cord blood stem cells only need to match 4 out of 6 tissue typing criteria to be eligible for transplant.
Cord blood donation
Donating cord blood is free of charge and once donated it could be used in a variety of ways. It could be used as an approved therapy to save the life of a stranger in need of a stem cell transplant, it could also be used in research to develop or improve treatments for a variety of illnesses, or it could be discarded. Once donated, your baby’s cord blood becomes the property of the cord blood bank and they will decide how best to use it. However, should you ever need access to your baby’s stem cells you would be unable to retrieve them as they are donated anonymously.
One of the biggest hurdles for women who want to donate cord blood is the sheer lack of facilities to donate; cord blood an only be donated in hospital births. Currently, there are only 10 hospitals in the UK accepting cord blood donations which with the exception of St. Mary’s Hospital in Manchester, are clustered around the Midlands and South East of England.
Private cord blood banking
For most families, family banks provide the only way to store their baby’s cord blood stem cells. Private cord blood banks are able to collect cord blood from most NHS and private hospitals, however, there is a fee for their services. While there is a fee to be paid, the cord blood is stored exclusively for the use of your baby and your baby’s family; you have complete control over how the sample is used.
In addition to the approved treatments available for cord blood there are currently over 5,000 clinical trials investigating the application of stem cells and 1,000 clinical trials investigating the application of cord blood. Many of these trials are in regenerative medicine; regenerative medicine uses a person’s own stem cells to repair or replace damaged or diseased tissues. Currently stem cells are being used to explore treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, strokes, heart conditions, brain injuries and cerebral palsy. Storing cord blood in a family bank can give your child access to these clinical trials and new treatments developed in the future, should they ever need them.
In addition to giving your child access to these existing and emerging therapies, your child’s siblings could also benefit. In cases where donor stem cells are needed siblings have a 25% chance of being a suitable match.
How is cord blood collected?
Collecting cord blood is safe and painless for both mother and baby. Once you baby has been delivered and the cord has been cut, the placenta is taken away to cause minimum disruption. The cord blood is then collected from the umbilical cord which remains attached to the placenta. Most women don’t even notice that the collection has even taken place!
Cord Blood Aware is a British information service dedicated to raising awareness of umbilical cord blood banking in public and family banks in the UK.
You can find out more about cord blood banking at www.cordbloodaware.org
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