Collecting baby’s umbilical cord stem cells at birth
What are stem cells?
Stem cells are cells from which other types of cells can develop. They are the building blocks of your blood and immune system. The blood flowing from the placenta through a baby’s umbilical cord contains a large amount of stem cells. This cells can also be collected from adults from bone marrow, but stems cells extracted from the umbilical cord blood have been shown to be more advantageous than those extracted from bone marrow or peripheral blood.
Cord blood cells can be classified into 2 types: HSCs and MSCs.
These can potentially be used to replenish supplies of red blood cells, white blood cells, heart tissue, bone tissue, cartilage tissue, cornea tissue, liver tissue, muscle tissue, nerve tissue and possibly many more.
What are the benefits of collecting umbilical cord stem cells at birth?
For a number of families, there is a medical reason why collecting stem cells from the umbilical cord when a baby is born could be helpful. For example, there may be a family history of a genetic disorder, or a sibling may have a blood or immune disorder that could improve with stem cell transplantation. This cells are collected and stored, with the potential to be used in the future if the child or a sibling develops a treatable illness. Yes, the can be used for a sibling or a parent, with approximately 25%-50% compatibility rate.
In some circumstances, collecting umbilical cord blood isn’t safe or worthwhile and the decision may be taken out of your hands. This may be the case if, for example:
- your baby is born prematurely
- you’re having twins
- you’ve had a previous disease
- you or your baby develop a complication during pregnancy or labor
Steps to take in collecting harvesting stem cells at birth
Harvesting stem cells at birth is an important decision for every family. For those who suffer for a disease that can be treated with stem cells, harvesting stem cells can be a life saver.
Step 1 – harvesting blood from the umbilical cord by the doctor who is assisting the birth
Step 2 – contacting the stem cell bank to collect and safely transport the blood
Step 3 – at the stem cell bank the blood will be tested and processed and then the stem cells will be separated from other cells in the blood
Step 4 – a set of test will be made, checking for any type of disease, for the number of stem cells and for the general quality of the resulted product
Step 5 – the stem cells will be cryopreserved in the cell bank at temperature from -196°C to −156°C (-320.8°F to -248°F)
How is umbilical cord blood collected?
Umbilical cord blood is collected right after birth. The doctor who is assisting the birth inserts a needle into the umbilical vein on the part of the cord that’s still attached to the placenta. The needle doesn’t go anywhere near your baby. The collection process is painless and safe for you and your baby.
The blood drains into a collection bag. Typically, 1 to 5 ounces are collected. The entire process takes less than 10 minutes.
Umbilical cord blood versus bone marrow
Stems cells extracted from the umbilical cord blood have been shown to be more advantageous than those extracted from other sources such as bone marrow. In many ways, this is because stem cells from the umbilical cord can be considered naive and immature compared to stem cells from other sources. Cord stem cells haven’t been exposed to disease or environmental pollutants. In this case, inexperience makes them stronger.
Most importantly, they are more accepting of foreign cells and 100% perfect match for the donor (baby). The closer the match between patient and donor, the less likely the patient will suffer from graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). The one big commonality between bone marrow and cord blood stem cells is that they both mostly comprise hematopoietic stem cells.
Here are some of the ways cord stem cells are better than other stem cells:
- Preserved cord stem cells are promptly available when needed.
- Bone marrow stem cells require an invasive, surgical procedure.
- Preserved cord stem cells are more tolerant of tissue mismatches and show a reduced incidence of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD).
- Preserved cord stem cells have a decreased risk of transmissible viral infections.
- Preserved cord stem cells have the ability to cross the blood–brain barrier and differentiate into neurons and other brain cells, which may be instrumental in treating some brain disorders.