Cord blood banking is a safe and painless way to collect the remaining blood found in the umbilical cord and placenta of a newborn. The cord blood is frozen and stored for possible future medical uses. Cord blood contains stem cells, which are potentially lifesaving cells.
What is It?
Cord blood, also referred to placental blood, is blood remaining in the umbilical cord after it is cut. Cord blood contains several types of stem cells, including specific cells that have the ability to change into other types of blood as well as immune system cells. These types of cells are only present in cord blood, bone marrow and peripheral blood and they can be transplanted for the treatment of various diseases, blood disorders and immunodeficiencies. Cord blood cells are easier to collect than bone marrow, but the only time they can be collected is immediately following birth.
How is it Removed?
Cord blood is collected almost immediately after birth. The process of collecting cord blood is pain free and only takes a few minutes. Once both sides of the cord has been clamped and cut (before or after delivery of the placenta), the blood is collected from the umbilical cord using syringe and bag that has been specifically designed for this process or the umbilical cord is raised to allow the blood to drain into a collection bag. Once the blood has been collected, it is screened for hereditary disorders or infectious diseases and typed. If there is enough collected and it is suitable for donation, it is sent to a cord blood bank to be slowly frozen and finally stored in liquid nitrogen.
What is a Cord Blood Bank?
Families have two options for collected cord blood, private banking or a public donation. At a private stem cell bank it is stored in case a family member needs it. Private cord blood banking means the family owns the cord blood and decides how it will be used. Public cord blood banking means the cord blood is donated for anyone who may need it or for research. When cord blood is donated, the family loses the rights to the cord blood and does not have a say as to where it will be used.
What is Cord Blood Used For?
The stem cells in cord blood are beneficial in treating several diseases including bone marrow cancer, leukemia, sickle cell and neuroblastoma as well as several other immune-cell disorders. Research is also being conducted to determine the benefits cord blood may have on conditions such as cerebral palsy, diabetes, autism and heart disease.
There are a number of hospitals, medical centers and university hospitals that accept cord blood donations; however, the number of public cord blood banks is limited due to the high cost of maintaining and storing the blood. Families who are considering a cord blood donation or storing cord blood in a private bank should discuss the options available with their physician and their local hospital to see if cord blood banking may be an option.