Blood is taken from the umbilical cord at birth, and the blood stem cells are stored in a cord blood bank. The potential for the cells is great since they are primitive blood cells. This means that they have the capability of becoming red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets, and transplants of these umbilical cord blood cells have been performed in place of bone marrow transplants. There is no danger in this substitution since the stem cells from the umbilical cord blood and those present in bone marrow have very similar properties and therefore produce very similar results.
How Does It Work?
Parents must choose a company that offers the service prior to the baby’s birth because the harvesting is done during labor using a kit provided by the chosen company. The umbilical cord is clamped on both sides before it is cut. One of the clamps is released afterwards, and a tube is inserted into the cord to collect the blood. After the blood from the umbilical cord is collected, they use needles to obtain more blood cells from the placenta. The cells needed are separated from the blood and sent to the storage location to be stored cryogenically.
Why Would Someone Want It?
Cord blood banking has even been praised as the better alternative to bone marrow transplants. The process of extracting the cells from bone marrow involves anesthesia, and there is a risk of infection. One might see cord blood as the better choice because there is no anesthesia, and there is no risk to the mother or the child. It is also easier to match a host to patient since the stem cells from the cord blood are more primitive than the cells from bone marrow.
The main advantage of cord blood banking is that the cells can be stored until they are needed rather than spending weeks finding the right donor. Of course it does have one big disadvantage: the cost. There is the initial cost of harvesting, the storage fee(yearly), and various other fees are often added. The cost would be worth it if your child is diagnosed with a serious disease and is in need of blood stem cells as quick as possible. Radiation and chemotherapy are used to treat certain serious diseases, but the problem is that these treatments kill many cells in the body that are not bad along with the ones that are targeted. Those stem cells harvested at birth can be transplanted, and the transplanted stem cells can develop into the cells lost in the treatment of the disease.