Everything About Cord Blood Banking

The news of pregnancy is welcomed with happiness and smile by most of the couples. But it is also the time to understand your responsibility, prepare yourself and your house according to the new baby and take several decisions regarding your child’s safety and secured future.

One of such decision is whether to go for umbilical cord banking or not? You must be struggling to get answers to many questions related to this topic.

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To make your search easier and answer all your queries, we have compiled all the necessary information regarding cord blood banking in this article. So read this article till the end and take the right decision for your child’s future.

What is cord blood banking

Cord blood banking may be defined as the collection and storage of the blood that is left in the newborn’s placenta and umbilical cord. This blood is rich in stem cells and can be used in future in the treatment of certain diseases of the immune system and blood. Also, it can be equally helpful, if in case, any sibling or relative gets sick. Thus, cord blood banking may be defined as a method of preserving the potential life-saving cells that are usually thrown away after the birth of the baby.

Now the question arises, is it worth to save cord blood?

To get an answer to this question, let us learn in detail cord blood stem cells? But first, let us first acknowledge what are stem cells?

What are stem cells

Stem cells may be defined as the cells that have the potential to multiply infinite times. Thus, one single stem cell can create millions of similar cells and then gets specialized.  Stem cells are different from other types of cells as they can multiply through cell decision even after being inactive for a long period of time. They have the ability to change in order to regenerate damaged tissue and assist specific organs.

Cord blood stem cells

Cord blood is the blood in the umbilical cord of your baby. It is rich in hematopoietic stem cells. Hematopoietic stem cells can form 3 types of blood cells and:

  • Red blood cells or RBC carry oxygen to tissues and organs.
  • White blood cells or WBC works along with the immune system and fights against infections.
  • Platelets- They prevent blood loss from clumping together.

What are the other sources of Hematopoietic stem cells

Although stem cells are found in small amounts all over the body, there are 3 major sources of stem cells. Besides umbilical cord, other two major sources of hematopoietic stem cells are bone marrow and peripheral blood.

Removing stem cells from other tissues and organs is very painful and also for successful transplant other sources of stem cells do not give enough cells. Thus the most popular choice of the stem cells is the bone marrow. Removal of stem cells from the bone marrow is a surgical method done under anesthesia. It takes about 20 days for the donor to recover.

In the case of peripheral blood collection, although it is a very less invasive method there is more risk of the patient’s body being attacked by the transplanted cells (graft-versus-host disease).

What are the diseases that can be treated with the cord blood stem cells

It has been 20 years cord blood cells are being used in the treatment of various diseases. About 35, 000  cord stem cell transplant has been done successfully worldwide. It is believed that cord blood stem cells can be used to treat about 80 different diseases.

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These days almost half of the pediatric treatments worldwide involves umbilical cord blood stem cells.

Diseases, where cord blood stem cells can be used, are:

  • Blood cancers like lymphoma and leukemia.
  • Immune system disorders, for example, aplastic anemia.
  • Metabolic diseases, for example, Krabbe disease and hurlers syndrome.

How does cord blood stem cells work

After the cord blood, stem cells are injected into the patient’s body as they move to the damaged area through the bloodstream. After arriving the damaged area cells get adapted to the type of cell that is needed by the body and begins to multiply. Thus, the healthy blood count of the patient increases and the recovery time improves.

In the cancer patients, chemotherapy is done to remove the diseased cells. This causes a decrease in the cell count. Thus, along with traditional chemotherapy cord blood stem cell transplantation is done to provide healthy hematopoietic stem cells to boost cell count.

Cord blood banking Pros and Cons

Its always advisable to know all the pros and cons of cord blood banking before you make any decision. The major part of this article shows the pros but are few cons as well. So, be sure to know everything before you move ahead.

Pros:

These days with the increased successful cases of cord blood transplant it is now considered the most effective method.  It is a less invasive process with less risk. Removal of cord blood stem cells is a painless and safe process for both the mother and the newborn. Also, the cord blood collected can be stored for several decades successfully.

The cord blood cells have the ability the easily adapt to the body of the host and repairs the tissues that are damaged.  Also, these cells are known to speed the natural healing process of the body and reinforces the immune system. Thus, it can be used to treat a number of dangerous diseases related to the immune system and blood.

Cons:

But one important point to note is that cord blood contains hematopoietic stem cells that are capable of differentiating only into blood cells. They are different from pluripotent stem cells or embryonic cells that have the capability to differentiate into any other type of cell in the body. Thus cord blood cells can only be used in the treatment of genetic disease related to the immune system and blood.

The use of cord blood cells for any autologous use in the future is highly hypothetical. But the combination of cord blood stem cells along with cord tissue stem cells and placenta tissue stem cells have more treatment options and healing potential.

Although our article concentrates around cord blood banking it is also important to have knowledge about mesenchymal cells found in cord tissue as many banks offer to the bank of both cord blood and cord tissue in order to give access to multiple stem cell types to the patient.

Umbilical cord tissue mesenchymal stem cells

Mesenchymal cells found in umbilical cord tissue are multipotent and can differentiate into different types of cells. The mesenchymal cells are found typically in the bone marrow and are also found in cord tissue. On transplantation in the body, these cells are capable of producing the following type of cells:

  • Bone cells- They improve the structure of the bone as well as diminishing brittle and damaged bones.
  • Cartilage cells- They repair damaged cartilage and also reduces damage to the cartilage.
  • Fat cells- These cells store the energy in the form of cells that can be used by the body when needed.

 Cord blood banking options

There are two major options for cord blood banking.

  1. Private banking– Here to store your newborn’s cord blood you have to pay to the private cord blood banks. You have to also pay an annual fee. The umbilical cord stem cells can be used for any future treatment of the child or any other family member. Herer only family member can access the cells when in need.

If you are selecting a private or family cord blood bank, keep following points in your mind:

  • To get a degree of assurance select cord blood banks whose laboratory has been inspected by AABB or FACT.
  • Before selecting also get full details about their collection and storage methods, cost, and offers.
  • It is better to select a quality bank in the country where the child is born.

If the bank you select is in another country make sure that the bank has a shelf life, the shipping container is well insulated, it should carry a temperature logger and also when cryogenically frozen cord blood is sent to the clinic it should not expire. Ideally, it should not take longer than 48 hours for the cord blood after the birth to get processed and cryopreserved

  • Better enroll yourself with the cord bank you have selected by the end of the 2nd
  • Check with your hospital if they will allow you to carry the collection kit.
  • Check with your practitioner if he will be able to or willing to carry the procedure.
  • After you are signed up you will receive the collection kit, medical supplies, and a medical form.
  • Call the cord-blood bank on the day of the delivery to pick up the kit and sent it to the lab.
  1. Public banking– If you wish, you can also donate the cord blood of your baby to the public banks. After you donate the cord blood cells, there is only a small chance that the family members can use it. But they can be used by any patient in need and researchers for experiments and clinical trials.

If you are willing to donate cord blood you should also know what fraction of cord blood donation is accepted. In the United States, about 80 percent of the donated cord blood is discarded. The reason behind is the volume collected is very low. Public banks store the donated cord blood only if the volume is enough to make a transplantation.

If you want to go for public banking it is better to search for public cord blood banks on parentsguidecordblood.org before the due date and contact them. At this given site you will also find the searchable map for all the hospitals that accept the donation of cord blood.

Also, make sure that whether your hospital allows the facility to take the collection kit with yourself in the hospital and then email the donation to the public cord blood banks or not. If you are living in the US only a few hospitals allow, this program as it is financially inefficient.

Most of the public cord blood banks in the United States due to the less number of staff require the mother to register for the cord blood donation a few days before the due date. But, Cleveland Cord Blood Center and NY Blood Center are a few examples of few public cord blood banks that accept walk-in-donations.

Thus, on one hand, by donating umbilical cord blood you will help a person in need. And on another hand, by choosing private banking you are ensuring that umbilical cord stem cells could be used by your family members when in need.

Factors that may help you to make your choice are:

  1. Cord blood banking cost- There are upfront fees and annual payment, to be done in the case you choose private cord blood banking to store your baby’s cord blood. Whereas donating cord blood cells are totally free.
  2. Location– Usually public banks are associated with the hospitals. Here your options are limited. In the case of private banks, they offer temperature controlled storage and thus allow the parents to ship their child’s cord even over longer distances thus location do not hold much importance in their case.
  3. The family history of the disease– If there is a history of genetic disease in your family better go for private cord blood banking.

How is cord blood collected

Just after the birth of the baby, the cord blood is collected. It is a painless and safe process that hardly takes 10 minutes. Let us learn the stepwise collection of cord blood

  1. Clamping and cutting the cord- After the baby is delivered the cord is clamped and cut as usual. Clamping should not be delayed for more than a minute or 2 or the blood will clot. If the blood gets clotted it is of no use.
  2. A collection of the cord blood- The medical provider will insert the needle into the umbilical vein. This is done on the part of the vein that is attached to the placenta thus is painless for your child. With the help of the needle, 1 to 5 ounces of blood is collected in the collection bag
  3. Storage of the cord blood– The blood is then shipped to the blood bank. Here it is tested, processed and preserved by controlling freezing.

Along with cord blood collection, umbilical cord tissue can also be collected and stored for possible use in future.

Frequently asked questions related to cord blood

Question 1. Which cord banking company is best in the United States?

Answer- To make your choice more convenient I am sharing information about best companies in the USA to consider umbilical cord banking.

There are 6 popular cord blood banks in the USA. Among them, Vlacord, Cord Blood Registry, and Cryo-cell are the oldest and largest. Since early 90’s they have been storing cord blood. They are accredited by AABB. They all have their own private labs where tests are conducted for hepatitis, HIV, human T-cell lymphotropic virus and cytomegalovirus. The charges for all these tests are included in the registration fees. The location of these banks is as follows:

Cryo-Cell in Oldsmar, Florida

Cord Blood Registry in San Bruno, California

Viacord in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Apart from the above 3 popular cord blood banks in the USA, you can also go with Life bank USA. It is a private bank in Cedar Knolls, New Jersey. It is also accredited by AABB. It stores placenta blood for free along with storing umbilical cord blood.

Another cord bank, The family cord is AABB accredited bank located in Los Angeles. The labs here are of high quality. For the 1st year, it covers the cost of blood banking if there is a sick family member. After a year there is an annual fee.

Carolina’s cord blood bank- It is a public cord blood bank affiliated to the Duke University. Here parents can email their baby’s cord blood. If they have a family member to be treated with cord blood they receive financial aid.

Question 2. What is cord tissue banking and what are its benefits?

Answer-  The  Tissue that is found in the umbilical cord of the baby contains special type mesenchymal stem cells that have the ability to regenerate and differentiate rapidly by themselves into bone, tendons, cartilage or neurons. Thus, they can be used to treat diseases that affect muscles, nerve cells and cartilage.

Question 3.  Can I preserve cord blood for the twins?

Answer- Public banks do not bank cord blood for twins, but you can go to private banks.

Question 4. What are the pros and cons of automated cord blood processing?

Answer- In automated processing, the technicians of the lab do not handle the process instead the cord blood collection bag goes to devices that are functionally closed such as Sepax2 or AXP. The final storage bag is then transferred to controlled rate freezer manually.

Question 5. Is the span used for manual cord blood processing is banned?

Answer-No its just a rumor.

Question-6. Is there any eligibility criteria to register for your baby’s cord blood?

Answer- There is a basic guideline. Those who fit the criteria are able to register for their baby’s cord blood banking. The guidelines are as follows:

  1. Baby should not have any fetal abnormality.
  2. Mother is not suffering from any kind of blood disease.
  3. Mother have not had any piercing or tattoos in last 12 months.
  4. Mother has not had a blood transfusion in last 12 months.
  5. In last 12 months mother has not been treated for STD, malaria, neither she had a positive test.
  6. Nor father, nor mother or any siblings ever had leukemia or cancer.
  7. Mother never had chemotherapy.
  8. During pregnancy, the mother had not been in contact with anyone who had received vaccination for smallpox.
  9. Mother had never taken Remicade, infliximab, etanercept, methotrexate, 6-mercaptopurine, Imuran, Cellcept, cyclosporine, or tacrolimus.
  10. The hospital you are delivering is not located in Puerto Rico or Alaska.

Question 7. What should be the age of the mother whose new born’s cord blood can be donated?

Answer- Most of the cord banks have the criteria that mother should be 18 or older but in some states, donations are excepted even if the mother is younger, so check with the banks in your area.

Question 8. Can I donate my baby’s cord blood if I deliver my baby in Hawaii, Alaska, or Puerto Ricco?

Answer-  Usually the donor is expected to be from contiguous U.S. Because the cord blood should arrive the bank within 48 hours of the collection. There is the possibility of delays if the donor is from contiguous U.S. But if you are delivering in Hawaii at participating hospital it is the exceptional case.

What is Be The Match Registry?

Answer-  Listing of the donated umbilical cord units and Potential bone marrow donors is Be The Match Registry.

Question 10.  Can I get back the donated cord blood in public bank later?

Answer-  It’s unlikely that you get cord blood back once it is donated to a public bank. There is a possibility that the cord blood is thrown if the size threshold does not meet the requirement or if the paperwork is not complete. Also, blood may be released to someone else when required.

Question 11. Can clamping be delayed?

Answer- Yes, If the blood is being collected for family banks and no if you are planning to donate it to the public.

We hope you find this article on cord blood banking helpful in taking a wise decision for you and your child’s future. If you have any related queries do let us know.