Cord Blood Storage & Research

Everything You Need To Know About Cord Blood And Stem Cell Banking

2013 Is The Year of the Stem Cell

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Back in 1998, a scientist from the University of California coined a term that would become a critical piece of medical history – embryonic stem cells. At one time, stem cells were the wave of the future. In 2013, studies are showing the future is here.

Researchers in regenerative medicine are calling this the year of the stem cell. The industry was fraught right from the beginning with controversy but modern tools like cord blood banking has lead to breakthroughs. This year promises even more success.

Why Stem Cells Matter?
Stem cells are cells still in their infancy. Simply put, they contain matter that allows them to be any cell needed whether it is a brain, nerve or muscle. Certain types of tissue are unable to regenerate. When there is a break in skin, the wound scabs over and new skin grows, but the same process does not work on critical nerve tissue.

The human body is unable to repair certain elements. Severance of the spinal cord, for example, will never scab over and grow back like a cut in the skin. That is why people who have spinal injuries end up as quadriplegics or patients with Parkinson’s disease lose their control over their muscles.

The Application of Stem Cells
Stem cell research may be the answer to trigger regeneration in tissue. Through cord blood banking, scientists that access to stem cells that may potentially promote healing in areas the body can’t heal naturally. Stem cells generate into any cell type. In theory, if injected into a diseased brain, stem cells will regenerate that area. A damage brain could become whole again.

In 2012, medical science took a step towards officially sanctioning regenerative medicine. Up until this point, the idea of human stem cell usage was so controversial that some studies stayed under the radar. In October, however, two key researchers in the field – British biologist John Gurdon and Japanese physician Shinya Yamanaka – were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their work in stem cell research.

That same month, company StemCells, Inc. released a paper on their use of neural stem cells in human patients with spinal cord injuries. Their second trial was on children with a fatal brain disorder. The results of both studies are promising. Although three of the children in the second trial have died, autopsies prove stem cells migrated through their brain tissue before death.

Why 2013 is the Year of the Stem Cell
With human studies beginning last year, this is the time that research should start showing how cells taken from cord blood banking sites might promote regeneration. Diseases like Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration and Parkinson’s disease may see a cure through this research in the future.

The controversy over stem cell research continues but with the possible benefits may outweigh any concerns. In 2013, the name of the research game will be embryonic stem cell research. It is no longer something out of a science fiction movie; the time for the stem cell is now.

Why Is Cord Blood Banking Controversial?

Group of doctor at hospital.

By now, many people have heard of and are familiar with the concept of cord blood banking.  Basically, this is when the blood that’s inside a baby’s umbilical cord is extracted after the birth, and saved for later use.  Many experts have said that cord blood banking offers a lot of potential benefit and that it should be a practice all newborns take part in.

However, there are also many who claim it is a controversial practice that should be discontinued.

Impact on the Baby

There are people who find the practice of cord blood banking and usage controversial, but it isn’t because of any impact that it has on the baby, or the mother for that matter.  Basically, a baby who has umbilical cord blood drawn isn’t aware that anything has happened at all.

When a baby has his or her cord cut and is separated from the mother, neither mother nor baby feel a thing and the same is true when it comes to extracting cord blood.  A needle is inserted into the umbilical cord after the baby is born and the blood is drawn and that is that.

Where’s the Controversy?

The controversy with using cord blood for treating various diseases and conditions is with the stem cells that are contained within.  Many people in the world have ethical issues with using stem cells for treating health conditions.  The objections are often based on religious views, but with cord blood their minds are often changed when they learn the whole truth.

Stem Cell Confusion

The type of stem cells that many people have issue with are embryonic stem cells, not the stem cells found in cord blood.  With embryonic stem cells, human embryos are created for the sole purpose of extracting the stem cells, then they are destroyed.  The stem cells may be used for research on treating deadly diseases, but it is this creation and then destruction of life that gets so many people upset.

With stem cells from cord blood, the situation is much different.  The baby is already born and the umbilical cord is already there.  If the blood is not extracted from it, the cord and blood are just discarded.  The baby is born at full term whether the cord blood is taken or not.  It is clear that the circumstances under which the stem cells are taken are vastly different from that of embryonic stem cells.

5 Benefits of Banking Your Baby’s Cord Blood

Happy mother with adorable baby If you ever hear the term cord blood and are wondering what it means, it refers to the blood that is inside a baby’s umbilical cord.  And cord blood banking refers to extracting that blood after birth and storing it in a special ‘bank’ for possible future use.

Even though it is a relatively new concept, it is growing in popularity and offers many important benefits. Here are five benefits to help you make up your mind.

May Save the Baby’s Life
Cord blood contains stem cells that are vital to life, and can be used in the future to help save the baby’s life if he or she ends up with any number of different life-threatening health issues.  If the baby develops a bone marrow disease such as leukemia, sickle cell anemia or even bone marrow failure due to chemotherapy, having that cord blood on hand might mean the difference between life and death.

Typically, bone marrow and stem cells are sought from a close family relative who is a perfect match, but that isn’t always possible.  With your own stem cells available, the match is always perfect and there is never potential for rejection.

May Save a Stranger’s Life
In some cases, cord blood is stored in a public bank which makes it available for anyone who needs those cells to fight a serious disease.  By allowing such a simple procedure to take place after the birth of the baby, the life of someone you may never even meet could be saved.

No Stress to Mom or Baby
When cord blood is extracted, neither the mother or baby feel any pain or suffer any undue stress.  After the birth, a needle is inserted into the cord and the blood is drawn.  The baby won’t feel any more pain than is felt from the cord being cut, which is none.

There Is No Moral Issue
Whenever we hear the term ‘stem cells’ we automatically think of embryonic stem cells, which carry an awful lot of controversy.  Embryonic stem cells have to come from a human embryo that is never going to fully develop into a person, which most religions and many other groups find ethically wrong.

With cord blood, the stem cells come from tissue that’s already been used to help nourish a baby, and is literally going to be thrown in the garbage.  If you don’t have an issue with the cord being cut and discarded, there’s really no issue to be found with extracting some blood.

It Produces Different Types of Cells
One big benefit of banking the baby’s cord blood is that the stem cells locked inside can produce all the different types of cells found in the body.  And with continuing research and technology, these cells will probably be able to combat far more diseases and conditions in the future than it can now.  Remember, it only takes a minute and once it’s gone, it isn’t coming back.

The Medical Processes Surrounding Umbilical Cord Blood

ImageStem cell research is one of the fastest growing fields in medicine. The cells are giving doctors and patients hope that cures for a range of diseases will one day be found. The most common stem cell treatment is done through transfusions. More than 20,000 transfusions have occurred worldwide. The need for compatible stem cells has spurred the creation of over 100 cord blood banks holding over 400,000 individual units of blood. Umbilical cord blood is one of the best sources for a certain type of very versatile stem cell. There are several points to understand about cord blood and stem cells.

Hematopoietic Progenitor Cells
Umbilical cord blood contains all of the same elements as regular blood including red and white blood cells. The one difference is that cord blood contains hematopoietic progenitor cells. These are stem cells. Stem cells are special because they have the capability to grow into other types of cells that can repair damage to the body. The value of the stem cells in cord blood comes from the fact that they are immature. The immature cells are largely ignored by the body allowing them to be used in a wider range of patients with a lower risk of rejection. They are also more versatile because the cells do not have the full capability to attack unrecognized cells.

Harvesting
Cord blood needs to be harvested from the umbilical cord after birth. The blood is located inside the cord and sometimes inside of the placenta. The blood is harvested with a syringe in the moments after the cord has been cut. Timing is very important during harvesting. Cutting the cord and harvesting the cells too early could leave the newborn with blood deficiencies that could lead to anemia or an iron deficiency. Waiting too long will reduce the amount of blood that can be harvested. The harvested blood is packaged specially and must be sent to a special facility for processing and storage.

Processing
Many laboratories process the cord blood before it is moved into storage. Processing involves removing certain elements that are either not beneficial or that do not store well. The plasma is typically removed from the cord blood because it is unnecessary for current procedures. Removing the plasma also reduces the volume of the blood allowing more samples to be kept in specialized storage units. Red blood cells are also removed from the cord blood. This is done in order to increase compatibility. It is also done because the cells can burst during the freezing and thawing process.

Storage
Cord blood is stored in a very cold environment in order to preserve the cells. The two most common techniques are vapor and liquid nitrogen storage. These types of storage units keep the samples at -130 degrees Celsius. This temperature completely stops any natural processes that might affect the cells. The containers use nitrogen to keep the temperature consistent so that there are no fluctuations that could allow cellular activity.

Treatments
Several treatments are currently available that use stem cells. The most common is a blood transfusion using compatible stem cells that repair the body. Success rates are not consistent and the technology is still developing. Current treatments are largely focused on metabolic diseases like Krabbe disease, immunological diseases and hematological malignancies. Banking cord blood is largely being done in order to have ready stem cells available as medical technology develops in the future.

Stem Cells and Cord Blood Research on Diabetes Cures

Diabetes is one of the most chronically diagnosed diseases on the planet. It is a disorder that effects the manner in which the body absolves sugar and converts it into energy. A healthy pancreas creates a hormone known as insulin which assists the body’s cells to absorb the post-digested  form of sugar known as glucose. The pancreas also regulates the amount of insulin to temper the level of glucose passed into the blood stream.

The severity of diabetes can vary, but as for severe cases, two types of diabetes can be distinguished. Type one diabetes patients have pancreases that do not develop insulin whatsoever. Type two diabetes patients do produce insulin, however their cells do not respond to the hormone. In either of these cases the glucose does not enter the cells and causes dangerously high blood sugar levels within the body and can lead to major complications. For patients with diabetes one or two, their quality of life changes through diet changes or medical complications that can vary from light to extreme. However, through stem cells derived from cord blood, a cure for diabetes may be upon the horizon.

Cord blood extracted from the umbilical cord and placenta at the time of child birth can yield stem cells, which have primarily been tested to treat bone marrow related diseases and conditions. However, researchers have discovered that stem cells also have the ability of developing into organs and tissue. These are pluripotent stem cells are cells with the ability to become ectodermic, mesodermic or endodermic tissue which can be easily taken from a skin sample of an adult and influenced to become whatever tissue is desired. The technique known as blastocyst complementation could be the solution for each individual to have their own organ transplant created from their own pluripotent stem cells. The idea is to create a chimeric animal that can harbor human organs by injecting induced pluripotent cells into the embryo of another species. The induced subject grows to develop the desired human organs for transplant to a human patient. If this becomes a perfected science then a new pancreas for diabetes patients could be available, as well as many other wonderful applications this science could ascertain. As is well known, any organ transplant hopeful on the waiting list waits for far too long, and suitable donors are few and far between. Many patients pass away waiting on an organ transplant. However, if human organs could be harvested from livestock such as pigs, then the much needed organs could be mass produced in an abundant supply.

Despite the amazing medical breakthroughs and endless medical possibilities that are presented by stem cell research, there is still opposition as to the morality of the growing medical science of stem cell research. This ethical debate derives from opposition to the use of human embryos. Although induced pluripotent stem cells do not involve human embryos at all, it is still met with resistance.

Hopefully, a cure will still be completed for diabetes, a disease which currently an estimated 50.8 million people across the globe have.

What is Cord Blood Banking

Exciting new research on cord blood is constantly finding new uses in medical science. Cord blood is found in the umbilical cord and placenta of a newborn child and contains valuable stem cells, which have the ability to form new, healthy blood cells. Successful treatment of blood diseases and cancers are already in use and several more promising research is in the pipeline. Until science and technology catch up, cord blood banking is a way to preserve cells for future use.

Cord blood banking involves collecting, testing and preserving cord blood for future use. Strict laws govern the handling and preservation of all cord blood to ensure safety and quality. There are two different types of cord blood banks. Private banks accept a fee to preserve the cord blood of an infant for future use by the infant or any member of the family who may need it. Private banks keep the individual’s identity attached to their cord blood. Public banks accept medical donations of cord blood from families free of charge. Following testing, no identity is attached to the donated cord blood and it is not available to the family for future use. Public banks have been criticized for this cataloguing method because of the possibility of the donor developing a genetic disorder later in life that was not detected at the time of collection. This could cause problems for a patient receiving treatment using the stem cells from this cord blood.

Cord blood is collected from donors who volunteer their infant’s stem cells. Private banks keep a record of the donor’s identity, but public bank donors are anonymous. Arrangements are typically made for collection before the third trimester. Cord blood collection takes place immediately following birth when the umbilical cord is drained of its contents, usually around 75 millilitres of blood. The placenta blood is often collected at this time as well.

After collection, the cord blood is sent to a lab for testing. This process ensures the blood is free of viruses, hepatitis, fungal matter and bacteria. Once the cord blood proves to be free of these microorganisms, it is sent to a facility specializing in blood cord banking to be preserved. Cord blood is frozen using cryopreservation, a slow cooling method.

Families who bank cord blood for future use may find this a very wise investment. While research is still being conducted on the efficacy of using a donor’s own cord blood, the cells can be extremely beneficial to family members. A sibling in need of a donation has a 75 percent chance of being a blood match, and parents have a 50 percent chance. Research being conducted indicates that in the future a number of commonly lethal diseases may be eliminated using the stem cells in cord blood. Cardiovascular disease, cerebral palsy and diabetes are a just a few of the diseases that may be cured through the use of cord blood. This makes cord blood banking the wisest investment a family may ever make.

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