July is National Cord Blood Awareness Month.
When a mama is pregnant with a little one, there are so many decisions that she and her partner must make – big ones, little ones and everything in between. But, one decision that pregnant mamas may not know much about is Cord Blood Banking. Cord Blood Banking is honestly a lifesaving decision. So, before you check yes or no to this decision, read a little bit more about it.
What is Cord Blood?
So, what is cord blood? Well, quite literally, it is the blood leftover in a baby’s umbilical cord and placenta after birth. Cord blood is really special, because it contains the powerful stem cells that are used to develop a baby’s organs, blood, tissue and immune system during pregnancy. Once the cord is clamped and cut, your baby no longer needs the cord blood.
Cord blood is already special because of the important role it has for a baby during development, but now because of the awesome powers of science, cord blood has another equally amazing role. The stem cells in cord blood have a unique ability to rebuild a healthy immune system damaged by disease. Today, it can help treat nearly 80 different diseases. Researchers have even begun expanding its uses in clinical trials to help treat conditions such as autism and brain injuries.
Who Can Benefit From Cord Blood?
Cord blood has been successfully used to treat several types of cancer, blood disorders, bone marrow failure syndromes, metabolic disorders, and immune deficiencies. When blood is collected at a baby’s birth, it can be stored and used to treat future diseases and conditions for not only the newborn, but for any matching siblings, as well. Depending on the disease or condition being treated will determine if the banked blood is more useful for the baby itself, or a sibling. A parent can also choose to donate cord blood allowing donation and transplantation to the general public – kind of like a basic blood donation.
Researchers are now working with cord tissue, as well. They hope that their work will lead to treatments and cures for diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, liver fibrosis, lung cancer, and sports injuries.
In the world of medical science, the history of cord blood banking seems to be truly in its infancy. It’s crazy to say it, but nearly all of the advancements have occurred during my lifetime!
The first ever report on cord blood stem cells was published in 1974, and this became the springboard for this new science. In 1983, Dr. Hal Broxmeyer and his colleagues proposed using stem cells from cord blood for transplant. A short 2 years later, Dr. Broxmeyer discovered transplantable stem cells in human cord blood. It’s a major breakthrough. And only 3 years after that, the first successful cord blood transplant is performed. The patient is a 5-year-old boy suffering from Fanconi Anemia, a rare inherited disease affecting the bone marrow. Cord blood was used from the boy’s newborn sister.
By 1992, the first public cord blood bank opened, the New York Blood Center. A year later, a 1-year-old child is cured from acute leukemia after a cord blood transplant from an anonymous unrelated donor. The blood came from the newly opened public bank. In 1995, the first successful cord blood transplant is performed for an adult leukemia patient.
In 1998, the National Marrow Donor Program launched a cord blood program. Also, a cord blood transplant is used to cure sickle cell anemia. By 2004, Congress was involved passing and funding the Health & Human Services Appropriations Act to create a National Cord Blood Program. The state of Illinois took it a step further passing legislation mandating birthing women be given the option to donate their baby’s cord blood to a public bank free of charge. In 2005, Congress passed the Stem Cell Research & Therapeutic Act creating a national inventory of high-quality cord blood samples.
In 2007 cord blood is identified as being able to help metabolic disorders. Research also shows that it is comparable to the matched bone marrow. In 2008, researchers discover a way to enhance the growth of stem cells from cord blood after transplantation.
And as we’ve rolled through the second decade of the 21st century, the advancements in medical treatment with cord blood stem cells is literally multiplying. Last year, the number of cord blood transplants around the world reached over 30,000. This science has truly come a LONG way!
How to Bank:
There are a number of private banks around the country with varying costs to bank your child’s cord blood. There is usually also an annual fee to store your cord blood. Many hospitals in states around the country will also collect your baby’s cord blood for public donation. Public donation is free. You may have to fill out a detailed questionnaire outlining the health of you and your partner.
This is just scratching the surface on learning about Cord Blood Transplantation, Donation and Banking. To gather the information above, I read from the following sources below. There is abundance of additional information in each of these sites, so if you would like to look more into Cord Blood Science, please visit one or all of these sources.