Your Newborn’s Umbilical Cord Blood: Preserving Stem Cells Provide a Life-long Medical Benefit
What makes your baby’s umbilical cord blood so special?
Your baby’s umbilical cord blood is so special due to a component of the cord blood known as stem cells. The stem cells serve as a “blood factory” and have the capacity to reproduce and to repopulate all types of blood cells, such as red blood cells which carry oxygen through the body, or white blood cells which protect from infections and help to fight diseases. Stem cells are extremely potent cell having the ability to permanently reconstitute the entire blood production system as well the entire immune system.
Why should the decision about cord blood storage be made?
Preserved cord blood stem cells may be considered a form of life insurance for your child. This may be especially true if past or present family members have a history of malignancies like leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, neuroblastoma, or non-malignant (often hereditary) diseases.
Stem cells may be used to treat a number of other diseases in the future. The cells can be available immediately when needed. Immediate treatment minimizes disease progression and offers the best prognosis. The total cost of obtaining and preserving stem cells is much lower than bone marrow. Not only is the process absolutely painless, but the use of stem cells produces better results.
How and when is cord blood collected and stored?
Stem cells are collected after the birth of your child in a quick and painless, risk-free procedure. The delivering physician or someone on the delivery room staff removes the blood from the cut umbilical cord and placenta before discarding it (causing no discomfort to the mother or newborn). Next, the cord blood is placed in a special transporting container and, within the next 24 hour period, is delivered to the lab, processed, and stored in the cryogenic bank. Research indicates these cells can last indefinitely. Each specimen, privately registered and uniquely labeled, can be accessed and retrieved only by you or your child at the age of consent.
When should parents decide to store baby’s cord blood?
It’s important to make a decision related to cord blood storage before the birth of your child. The opportunity to collect and preserve your child’s umbilical cord or placenta blood comes, literally, once in a lifetime. If not collected at birth, this irreplaceable source of stem cells would be lost forever. Such a vital decision should not be made at a time when you have a high degree of anxiety, just minutes before or during the birth of your baby. Talk to your obstetrician about this option in advance. Invest in your child’s future: It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Provided by Gennady Tsukerman, M.D., PhD, Director of Genetics Screening Program, Reproductive Genetics Institute, Chicago, IL.