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Cord Blood Banking

After fertility treatments culminate with a successful pregnancy, couples often look to ways in which they may guard against a child’s future health issues. Saving your child’s "cord blood" through cord blood banking may help in this endeavor.

Typically, the umbilical cord and placenta are routinely discarded after birth; however, in recent years, more and more parents are storing the cord blood because of its potentially life-saving properties. Collecting cord blood is the only opportunity parents will have to save stem cells from their child’s birth.

What Are Cord Blood and Stem Cells?

Cord blood is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord and blood vessels of the placenta after the baby is born, and the umbilical cord is cut. The cord blood is rich in stem cells.

Often called “master cells,” stem cells have the ability to grow into other kinds of cells, such as brain, muscle and heart cells. These cells can then form other tissues, organs and systems in the body.

Stem cells are also found in bone marrow, and doctors have used them for years to boost the immune systems for cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.

Stem cells found in cord blood have certain advantages over those found in bone marrow. Cord blood stem cells reproduce quicker, have immunological immaturity, and have not yet been exposed to many viruses or much aging. Additionally, harvesting stem cells from cord blood is an easier, safer and non-invasive process.

The Advantages of Cord Blood

For parents who conceived their children via in vitro fertilization (IVF) using anonymous egg donors or sperm donors, banking cord blood has several advantages. Banking cord blood may be the only option to secure genetically-related stem cells for a child when the medical history of the egg or sperm donor is incomplete. Health surveys for the donor may not have been complete, or donor diseases may not have manifested themselves at the time of donation. Cord blood could be beneficial in these scenarios.

Cord blood can be used for disease and injury treatment, both in transplant medicine and regenerative medicine. It can be used to treat more than 80 diseases, including blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphomas, other cancers like brain tumors or renal cell carcinoma, bone marrow failure disorders, hemoglobin disorders such as sickle cell disease, inherited metabolic disorders, and inherited immune system disorders.

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ccording to the National Cord Blood Program website, there have been over 15,000 cord blood transplants worldwide through 2009. The National Marrow Donor Program projects that there will be 10,000 cord blood transplants per year by 2015, up from 2,000 per year in 2006.

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