Umbilical cord blood is the blood found in the cord that connects the fetus to the placenta. At birth, cord blood remains in the umbilical cord, and physicians usually extract it immediately for future use. The quest for cord blood has been on the rise during the past 20 years, and it has been found that keeping a newborn’s cord blood may help treat some of the “incurable diseases” that we now have.
What’s in the Cord Blood?
The major benefits of cord blood treatment are based on the fact that umbilical cord blood is rich in stem cells, which are the smallest cells in the body that act as the basic cells for organ growth and development.
Stem cells, which are very basic in the production of brain cells, blood cells, and other types of cells that keep the organs functioning, have the ability to replenish worn-out cells in the body. Therefore, they are seen as an important tool in the management of illnesses which involve the destruction of some cells in the body.
The umbilical cord blood stem cells are also the easiest stem cells to gather. Upon delivery of a newborn, the blood is extracted from the umbilical cord without causing pain and discomfort in the mother and the baby.
What Illnesses can Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells Treat?
Various studies and experiments have led to the conclusion that stem cells from umbilical cord blood are, indeed, useful in the management of certain diseases. Some of these include the following:
Bone Marrow Disorders
Stem cells are able to manage bone marrow disorders such as pure red cell aphasia, aplastic anemia, and leukemia. In these cases, stem cells are able to differentiate into bone marrow cells, thereby replacing the dysfunctional bone marrow tissue. Research also indicates that cord blood has more stem cells than bone marrow cells; hence, there is a better response to cord blood use compared to bone marrow transplantation.
Metabolic disorders such as Wolman disease, Tay Sachs, Maroteaux-Lamy syndrome, Krabbe disease, and Gaucher disease can be managed by umbilical cord stem cells.
Beside these conditions, studies are still conducted on the efficacy of stem cells for the treatment of other more common conditions such as arthritis, brain tumor, diabetes, cancer, and muscular dystrophy.
How Do They Store Cord Blood?
Since cord blood may not be used right away, the collected blood sample is stored in cord blood banks until the time the owners may need it. Some families even practice collecting cord blood in every newborn delivery in their family in order to provide an immediate source of stem cells in case one of the family members falls ill with certain serious conditions.
Medical technology has really evolved through the discovery of various treatments for a number of conditions. The previously rejected cord blood is now preserved, and cord blood banking is now available for those who continue to use it to save lives.
Dr. Ethan Den is an oncologist. He specializes in cancers involving the reproductive tract such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, penile cancer, and prostate cancer. He has participated in a number of studies on umbilical cord blood stem cell transplantation for cancer.