Why Save Stem Cells From Cord Blood?

By Barb Nefer

  • Overview

    Why Save Stem Cells From Cord Blood?
    Why Save Stem Cells From Cord Blood?
    There are many companies that allow parents to store their babies' umbilical cord blood in order to preserve the stem cells. This can have a variety of benefits for both the baby and other family members, as the cells may be useful later for treating a variety of illnesses.
  • Function

    A baby's umbilical cord blood provides an excellent source of specialized blood cells, known as stem cells. These cells are used by the body as the building blocks for tissues, organs, blood and the immune system. Genetically, these cells are unique to each individual baby.
  • Procedure

    Umbilical cord blood is collected once a baby has been been born and its umbilical cord has been clamped and cut. Blood can be collected either before or after the placenta is discharged from the mother's womb. Using sterile techniques, the medical professional who is collecting the blood inserts a sterile needle into the umbilical vein. This drains the blood into a sterile bag using gravity to draw it in. The bag contains an anticoagulant to prevent the blood from coagulating after collection. The process takes about 5 to 10 minutes, and when it is done, it is sent to a storage facility for processing, testing and storage. Umbilical cord blood can be collected after a natural birth as well as a Caesarean section delivery.

  • Time Frame

    There is a very narrow time frame in which parents can choose to save, or "bank," their baby's umbilical cord blood in order to save the stem cells for possible future use. Cord blood can only be collected within the first few minutes after delivery of the baby. The decision needs to be made before the baby's birth so the collection can be carried out immediately after delivery.
  • Benefits

    Saving umbilical cord blood in order to preserve stem cells can potentially offer a cure for certain genetic diseases, immune disorders, blood disorders, and even cancers that a child might contract in the future. Stem cells are already being used to treat diseases such as lupus, sickle cell anemia, and several types of cancer. Continued research is showing that they be useful in treating other conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, spinal cord injuries and HIV. By saving a baby's own stem cells, there is insurance that the cells will be a perfect match if they are ever needed for treatment later in that baby's life. They also have a 25 to 30 percent chance of being a perfect match for a sibling who might need treatment, and they may even be a match for the parents.
  • Considerations

    A family's particular medical history can be an important consideration in the decision to save a baby's cord blood in order to preserve the stem cells. If the family has a history of diseases that can be treated successfully with stem cells, saving the cells at birth can provide an important "insurance policy."
  • Cost

    The cost of collecting and storing stem cells from cord blood varies, depending on the collection/storage company selected by the parents. It typically runs from $2,000 to $3,000 for collection, processing and storage during the first year, with various annual payment plans for continued storage.
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