What is cord blood?
Cord blood is the baby’s blood that remains in the placenta and cord after birth. After the baby is born, the blood in the placenta and cord is no longer needed and is usually disposed of carefully. Cord blood contains many different types of cells including very small numbers of a particular type cell, known as Stem Cells. These cells are the building blocks of all the other cells in the body. Different parts of the body are made up of different types of cells: The heart is made up of heart cells; the liver is made up of liver cells; blood is made up of blood cells, and so on. Stem cells can grow into these different kinds of cells in the body.
Why is cord blood useful?
Cord blood is currently used in the treatment of:
- Blood related disorders, such as
- Sickle-cell Anemia
- Thalassemia (also known as Haemoglobinopathies)
- Some immune system disorders
- Myeloma (a type of bone marrow cancer)
- Metabolic storage disorders, such as Hurler syndrome (an inherited condition caused by an enzyme deficiency.)
Some scientists have claimed that cord blood could potentially be used to cure diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and conditions such as diabetes. They also claim that cord blood could be used to treat diseases affecting the brain, heart and spine. Other scientists argue that there is not enough evidence to back up these claims. It may be that in the future more diseases will be treated with cord blood. At present, however, much more research is needed.
With cord blood, life can begin. Twice.
How is cord blood used?
Blood stem cells are stem cells that grow into new blood. A cord blood transplant uses blood stem cells to replace diseased cells with healthy new cells and rebuild an individual’s blood and immune system. For the transplant to be a success, the new cells must match the individual’s own cells as closely as possible.
There has been over 6000 successful cord blood transplants (between relatives and non-relatives) worldwide.
Cord blood transplants can be used as an alternative to bone marrow transplants to treat some disorder. This has mainly been successful in treating young patients for leukemia.
The advantage of a cord blood transplant, compared with a bone marrow transplant, are that:
- There are fewer complications with a cord blood transplant.
- It is easier to find a match from stem cells than from bone marrow.
- This, in turn, leads to increased access to transplantation, particularly for patients from ethnic minorities.
- Cord blood can be frozen and stored for years so it is more readily available.
- There are fewer delays with a cord blood transplant.
- Delays are inevitable in the case of bone marrow transplants because of the need to search registers, contact would be donors and the bone marrow retrieval procedure itself.
The disadvantages are that:
- A cord blood transplant may not be possible. There may not be enough cells from one cord for a transplant, especially to an adult.
- For some blood conditions, such as certain leukemia, a transplant using a child’s own blood may be harmful.
- This is because the stored stem cells may contain the same abnormality and risks that caused the child to become ill in the first place. In the case, a donation from another source would be beneficial.
What is cord blood banking?
Cord blood banking is when cord blood is collected and stored for treating a disease or illness. There are public banks and private banks. In 2005 there were less than 25 banks worldwide and now there are over 500 banks around the world with an umbilical cord blood bank now established in almost every major country.
- If you give birth in some specified hospitals in UK, donation in voluntary and collection and storage is free of charge.
- A public bank stores cold blood for use by anyone anywhere in the world, thus ensuring fair access for all patients requiring stem cell transplantation.
- It is an alternative to a volunteer bone marrow donor registry.
- If there is a known genetic condition in your family or you already have a child with leukemia or blood related disorder, your clinician may recommend that you consider banking your baby’s cord blood.
- Your clinician may be able to arrange for cord blood to be collected and stored in the NHS (National Health Service) cord blood bank for future use by your family.
- You should also discuss this with the doctor looking after the prison in your family who is ill.
- People can store cord blood with a private bank in the hope that, in the future, cord stem cells may be useful, should a member of their own family develop a disease treatable by stem cell therapy.
- The chances of your child ever needing to use his or her own cord blood are extremely small, so there is no guarantee that the cord blood will ever be needed.
- Nevertheless, you may feel this is worthwhile, like and insurance policy.
- There is a fee for collection and long-term storage of up to £1,500.
- Depending on circumstances, some private banks may store cord blood free of charge for certain families where there is a known genetic condition.
Other options: If you have not banked with a private bank and your child develops a blood related disorder, immune system disorder or metabolic storage disorder in the future, then you still have other options. These are:
- Cord blood from a public bank in your country or internationally.
- Use of other sources of therapy such as bone marrow transplants.
- There is worldwide collaboration with international bone marrow registries to find suitable matches for patients who require a bone marrow transplant.
- Treatment from a sibling who matches a family member who can give bone marrow.
- Full written information on the private banking policy at your hospital should be given to you at your antenatal booking appointment.
- This information may not be given routinely, so you may need to ask if you would like to find out more.
Cord blood banking in India:
Cord blood banking was an alien concept till a few years ago in India but it is rapidly becoming popular now. The first cord blood bank established in India in 2004 named Lifecell International Private Limited (http://www.lifecell.in/) from Chennai and Gurgaon, it is the largest stem cell bank of India with branches in almost every states.
There are other premiere private cord blood/stem cell banks also:
- Cordlife Group Limited (https://www.cordlifeindia.com/)
- Cryobanks International (http://www.cryobanksindia.com/)
- Cryo-Save (India) Private Ltd. (http://in.cryo-save.com/en)
At the moment, India has 15 private cord blood/stem cell banks. But the need is growing day by day. But there should be more public banks.
There are few public cord blood/stem cell banks. Such as:
- ReliCord, Reliance Life Sciences Pvt. Ltd. (http://www.relicord.com/)
- Jeevan Blood Bank and Research Centre (http://www.jeevan.org/stemcell/)
PRICE: Collection of umbilical cord blood and storage of stem cell for 20 years in any Indian private cord blood/stem cell bank costs around Rs. 90,000 to Rs. 1,50,000.
How is cord blood collected safely?
Cord blood must be collected safely. It is important what a trained technician who is not involved in your or your baby’s care collects the cord blood. It is important that neither your obstetrician nor your midwife should be distracted from looking after you and your baby during and immediately after childbirth. There should be no alteration in your ‘usual management’ of labor, such as the delivery of the placenta has been delivered in a clean environment using methods and facilities, which meet the required regulations. The precious stem cells are collected from the umbilical cord blood and preserved in minus 190 degree Celsius in order to maintain its utility for decades.
Cord blood collection may not be advisable or possible if:
- The baby is premature
- Mother have a multiple pregnancy
- The cord around the neck needs to be cut early to deliver the baby
- The delivery is by emergency caesarean section
- Mother is being prescribed certain medication
- Mother or the father of the baby have tested positive for a transmissible infection(s).
Dr. Arunangsu De
(For giving me valuable information on this matter)