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Why Bank Cord Blood?

Expectant parents with healthy pregnancies are storing cord blood as a precaution, to ensure that this medically important material is available to their children if it is needed in the future.

Cord blood can, and does save lives daily. Cord blood has already been used to treat over 50 life-threatening diseases, but the full medical potential of stem cells is only beginning to be harnessed. Expectant parents are increasingly beginning to recognize the potential of this technology, and what it can mean for their children’s health in the years ahead.

The first cord blood transplant was in 1988: A boy with Fanconi anemia, a rare but fatal blood disorder, was treated with a simple transfusion of cord blood, which regenerated and replaced the defective cells in his body. The simplicity of transfusing cord blood for serious blood disorders has since been applied to over 50 life-threatening diseases, from leukemia to lupus:

 

Cancers
  • Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)
  • Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML)
  • Juvenile Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia
  • Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia
  • Liposarcoma
  • Hodgkins Disease
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma
  • Refractory Anemia (RA)

 

Inborn Errors of Metabolism
  • Adrenoleukodystrophy
  • Erythrophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis
  • Gunther Disease
  • Histiocytic Disorders
  • Hunter Syndrome
  • Hurler Syndrome
  • Krabbe Disease
  • Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome
  • Osteopetrosis
Hematopoietic Diseases
  • Aplastic Anemia
  • Amegakaryocytic Thrombocytopenia
  • Diamond-Blackfan Anemia
  • Dyskeratosis Congenita
  • Fanconi Anemia
  • Kostmann Syndrome
  • Beta Thalassemia

 


Immune System Diseases

 

  • Severe Combined Immune Deficiency (SCID)
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
  • Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome
  • X-Linked Lymphoproliferative Disorder
hematopoietic

In the case of treating potentially fatal blood-borne disease, ‘hematopoietic’ stem cells in cord blood are capable of regenerating and replacing the entire blood and immune system, including the red blood cells that carry oxygen, the white blood cells that fight against viruses and bacteria, and the platelets that are responsible for wound healing.

Despite the many diseases that can already be treated with cord blood, stem cell therapy is still considered to be in its infancy. Cell therapy is widely regarded by physicians and scientists to constitute the next major revolution in medicine. There is an increasing number of research projects at universities and hospitals worldwide that attempts to use stem cells to treat or cure currently ‘incurable’ diseases such as paralysis resulting from spinal cord injury, heart attack, diabetes, and even for cosmetic purposes, including skin and hair regeneration.

In some tissues and organs of the body, like the brain and heart, there are no stem cells left that are capable of forming new cells.

Due to its tremendous potential, billions of dollars are being invested in stem cell research annually, and new applications continue to emerge. The field of stem cell research is progressing at a rapid pace and current research is focusing on the use of the regenerative potential of stem cells in the future treatment of a number of deadly diseases.

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Diabetes
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Muscular dystrophy

The potential medical use of stem cells in the future is expanding, and therefore so will the potential applications and likelihood of use/

The above sections demonstrate that cord blood stem cells are medically important, so from a strictly medical perspective, cord blood banking is unquestionably a positive action. The only real consideration with cord blood banking is strictly financial; the two key factors being: 1) What is the likelihood of use relative to the cost, and 2) are there equal, but less expensive alternatives.

Likelihood of use. The likelihood that your child will use her or his cord blood equals the likelihood that he or she will develop a disease that requires cell therapy. The likelihood of your child developing one of the diseases that is currently treated with cord blood is less than 1 in 1,000; however, new technologies and treatments continue to emerge every year, and the likelihood of use will continue to increase as more treatment options become available. As an example, if a cure for diabetes using stem cells is developed, the likelihood of use will suddenly jump to 1 in 3 (the lifetime risk of developing diabetes). If you consider other diseases that are candidates for cell therapy, such as heart disease, the likelihood of use could become even greater.

Alternatives? Are there equivalent but less expensive alternatives to cord blood banking? The answer is “no”. In adults, stem cells can only be obtained from bone marrow in a surgical procedure, or from the blood after being treated with powerful hormones with unknown long term consequences. The stem cells from adult bone marrow are also not as potent as from cord blood.

 

Public vs Private Cord Blood Banks

 

Canada also has a public cord blood bank that accepts donations, but primarily, this cord blood bank is intended for rare tissue types, such as from indigenous populations. Even if a family does have their sample collected, it no longer belongs to them, and most likely will be used or discarded before they need it.

 

Is it possible to not store cord blood and just use the cord blood from the public cord blood bank?

 

The answer is that even if a so-called “perfect” match from a public cord blood bank is available, there is the possibility of rejection, or worse, of graft-versus-host disease, where the immune system from the donor rejects the body of the recipient, a terrible disease in its own right. There is no substitute for a person’s own stem cells. In addition to being a perfect match for your child, your child’s stem cells may also be useful for other members of your family, especially siblings, as there is a greater chance of a match between your child’s stem cells and his/her first degree relatives.

Umbilical cord blood stem cells can only be harvested once in the lifetime of a child, and that is at the time of birth. Once the stem cells are harvested, Healthcord processes and banks them for long term storage under cryogenic conditions. These cells are readily available for your use whenever they are needed.

Banked stem cells Bone marrow transplant
Eliminates need to find donors. Stem cells banked by you are easily accessible when needed Often difficult or impossible to find a matching donor, especially for ethnic minorities
The stem cells you banked are a perfect match for your child Risk of donor graft rejection

 

  • Immediate Availability. Many children in need of a stem cell transplant are unable to find a matching donor. As more cell therapy treatments become available in the future, this will become an increasing problem. Storing your baby’s cord blood will ensure that there will always be a matching stem cell source.
  • Biological Insurance for your Family: In addition to being a perfect match for your baby, cord blood stem cell have a high probability of being a match (50-75%) of being a suitable match for a sibling.
  • Alternative to Bone Marrow: Unlike bone marrow or other invasive approaches to harvesting stem cells, cord blood banking is safe for both the mother and child. There is no risk or side-effect, and cord blood stem cells have unique and powerful properties that do not exist in most adult stem cells.

 

Cord blood banking: An ounce of prevention

The hope is that no child will ever need his or her cord blood, but cord blood banking offers the peace-of-mind that your child’s cord blood is available if he or she ever needs it. Most people purchase home insurance every year despite the small odds that their home will ever burn down because they can’t afford to buy another house, so they cannot take the chance. Similarly, expectant parents with normal pregnancies are choosing to store cord blood- because their child’s health and life is priceless, and they cannot afford to take the chance not to store it.

Combining the importance of cord blood banking with the fact that the likelihood of using cord blood is increasing every year, as well as the fact that the cost of cord blood banking over 18 years is only $2.50 per week during that time-frame- about the price of a latte at a coffee shop, and the value of cord blood banking becomes apparent. For most Canadian families, cord blood banking is both important as well as affordable.

Five minutes for a lifetime

Umbilical cord blood stem cells can only be harvested once in the lifetime of a child, and that is at the time of birth. It takes only a few minutes to enroll online. By choosing to bank your child’s cord blood, you are making a decision that can potentially save the lives of your child and family members should they become sick in the future. Cord blood banking allows you to enjoy the security of knowing that you have given your child a distinct health advantage in life.

Once stem cells are harvested, Royan Stem Cell Technology processes them and banks them for long term storage under cryogenic conditions. These cells are then readily available for your use. Whenever the cells are needed, they will be readily available. Stem cells in cord blood can be used for cell therapy, the use of cells to treat or cure disease.