The child during pregnancy receives nutrition for its growth and development through umbilical cord.
Earlier, the same cord blood used to be thrown away as a medical waste after childbirth. But today we know that this cord blood is an abundant source of stem cells.
If preserved, these cells can save the future of your baby from many life-threatening diseases and disorders.
What are Stem Cells?
Stem cells are the body’s master / mother cells as they can create different types of cells and hence repair damaged parts of the body. Stem cells are primarily found in the blood that circulates through your body, in bone marrow, and in umbilical cord and cord blood.
These non-specific cells can be used to produce specific cells and tissues to regenerate or repair the dysfunctional parts of the body. The umbilical cord stem cells have certain advantages over the stem cells that are retrieved from bone marrow.
For one, stem cells can easily be obtained from cord blood at the time of delivery whereas getting it from bone marrow requires painful surgical operation that also involves risk to the donor. Moreover, stem cells in cord blood and umbilical cord are considered to be much more naive and hence capable of growing faster.
The patients with cord blood transplantation have much higher survival rate and better quality of life after treatment. On the contrary, bone marrow stem cells may give rise to complication such as Graft versus Host Disease (GvHD) in absence of 100% HLA match.
When a transplant is done using stem cells from a donor, even a brother or sister, there is a possibility that the new cells (the graft) will react against your tissues (the host). GvHD is a complication when the donor’s bone marrow recognizes the recipient as “foreign” and mounts an immunologic attack.
How are they obtained?
When the umbilical cord is cut at the time of delivery, the blood remaining in the umbilical cord has stem cells in abundance. This blood is collected, and transferred to a cord blood bank. The bank gives it a unique identification number, processes and preserves it cryogenically at minus1960C.
Procedure of obtaining cord blood is an absolutely painless, easy but important procedure, harmless to the mother as well as child. It hardly takes 10 minutes and you will realize the importance of this 10-minute procedure if, God forbid, ever your baby suffers a severe disease or disorder, when your child’s life is at stake and only immediate transplantation can save his life.
Therefore, be serious, think what you would prefer to lose- 10 minutes of time and a small amount of money or the future life of your lovely baby? You won’t get another chance.
It secures the Future of Your Baby, But How?
The preserved cord blood cells are like an insurance policy. Whenever the need of blood/tissue transplantation arises, the preserved stem cells can be directed to differentiate into specialized cells/tissues that can be used in transplantation.
Cord blood is already being used to treat once incurable diseases like leukemia, thalassemia, genetic disorders, breast cancer, and seventy-two others. Scientists have been successful in growing skin cells, heart cells, lung cells and even sperm using stem cells.
Blood stem cells have been proven to cure thalassemia, leukemia, cerebral palsy etc., skin grown from the stem cells is used to treat burn and injury cases. Clinical trials are in various phases for the treatment of diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
Because of its promising future and safety, the government of India has come forward to promote research in this field.
Along with the treatment of critical diseases, stem cells are also used in personal aesthetics such as to end the baldness, to regenerate the skin after injury and to treat paralysis.
Cord blood banking has a promising future and will revolutionize the face of modern medicine, alleviating the sufferings of millions.