The umbilical cord is the tie between a mother and her unborn child. It supplies the fetus with oxygenated blood and nutrients. Scientists in the 1970's discovered that cord blood contained hematopoietic stem cells that can replicate infinitely. This can be used to cure blood diseases and immunologic disorders. It also contains progenitor cells that morph into specific or target cell types and is more specific than the stem cell. The characteristics of both cells can be harnessed to cure a multitude of life-threatening illnesses. This is why they created blood cord banking.
To understand what this process is about, one must first know how cord blood is collected. It happens right after severing the umbilical cord within 10 minutes after the child is born. A special kit is required to collect cord blood. This kit has to be ordered in advance from the blood cord bank of your choice.
After extraction, the placenta and umbilical cord are taken to the bank in an attempt to extract more stem cells. The blood undergoes tissue typing and tested for signs of HIV, Hepatitis B or C. If the tests come out negative, a cryopreservant is added to the fluid to ensure that the cells survive the cryogenic procedure.
This process does not come cheap. Some banks charge $1000 – 2000 for the collection fee. A maintenance fee of about $100 is charged annually. As expensive as it is, many families opt to undergo this procedure as a safety measure.
When needed, the child can avail of his or her own cord blood, it is called an autologous procedure. Other family members can benefit from cord blood storage if they are a close match. When a person receives umbilical cord blood from another person, this is called an allogenic procedure. Parents have custody over the blood until the child is of legal age.
Recent studies have shown that umbilical tissue or Wharton's jelly is a good source of MSC ( Mesenchymal stem cells). These cells help in creating bone, cartilage and connective tissue. They also help by mediating the body's response to cells that are damaged. At present, studies of MSC are taken from animals. Scientists are using them to try and cure diseases like Lung Cancer, Parkinson's Disease, Type 1 Diabetes and Injuries to the Cartilage.
Tips and comments:
Talk to your spouse long before your baby is due. This is a decision that might just save your child from a major illness in the future. Although it might be expensive, cord blood banking is an investment that most parents should consider. Many public cord blood banks have stocks from donors. If they do not implement strict testing policies, you may be doing more harm than good.
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