Some remarkable advances have been made in medical science over the last few years and research is continuing into groundbreaking treatments for many illnesses that have not been curable in the past. One of the main areas of research is into the potential that stem cells have for providing cures and treatments for serious conditions that have not previously been controllable. In connection with this research the importance of collecting umbilical cord blood cannot be overstated. Stem cells are already being used in the treatment of some 70 diseases and this number should grow as new discoveries are made.
During pregnancy, smart expectant mothers focus on their personal healthcare, paying attention to their diet and adopting gentle exercise regimes with the welfare of their baby being uppermost in their minds. Plans are made for childbirth too, so that mother and newborn can be kept as calm, comfortable and safe as possible throughout the birthing process. Not everyone is aware, however, that there is another important step that can be taken to safeguard the new baby, and indeed the whole family, and this involves making arrangements to bank umbilical cord blood.
About umbilical cord blood banking
To collect umbilical cord blood the procedure is to act as soon as the cord is cut. The blood that is taken from the cord can then be preserved for future medical use by being frozen and stored. There are both public and private cord blood banks; public banks make cord blood donations available as required or sell donations for medical research, whilst private blood banks will earmark donations for a specific family, for a fee.
What is it used for?
Cord blood contains stem cells that are unspecialized, which means they have the capacity, with the correct sort of stimulation, to develop into specialized cells found in muscle, blood or other forms of body tissue. Following stimulation, these healthy cells are then available to replace diseased or damaged cells. For example, cells that are damaged by severe problems with the immune system, disorders of the bone marrow and malignant progressive diseases such as leukemia, can be replaced with the healthy stem cells.
As research continues, the medical profession is hopeful that cord blood will be more widely used in the future, and that people of all ages will be able to be treated for a variety of illnesses, including spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, stroke and even heart failure.
Is it a great investment?
Families who are considering the option to bank umbilical cord blood recognize the advantages for the future. The whole family can benefit as one child’s cord blood stem cells are more likely to be compatible with those of a sibling – there is a 25 percent likelihood of a good match. Most adults could not be treated with a single unit of cord blood, however two or three together can be sufficient, and it is possible to enhance an original unit by combining it with stem cells from unrelated individuals.
The value of saving umbilical cord blood
Considering how important blood transfusions can be in saving lives, having access to cord blood that is compatible with that of family members can be a great advantage. In the case of childhood cancers, for example, a healthy sibling’s cord blood can be given instead of the child’s own, as the original stem cells may be genetic carriers of the disease. Non-genetic conditions are eminently treatable with a patient’s own stem cells, as he or she will not reject or react against them.