The saviour in stem cells

Baby cord blood banking


The term “cord blood” is used for blood that is drawn from the umbilical cord and the placenta after a baby is born. Not too long ago, this afterbirth product was regarded as medical waste and discarded without a second thought. However, extensive research and studies have concluded that nothing was further than the truth! Cord blood contains stem cells that could save the life of the baby in the future but also his family members too, if the need were to arise! It may be frozen for later use in medical therapies, such as cord blood transplants or even for clinical trials of new cell therapies. Read on and be informed.

With the birth of baby, comes the gift of saving lives.


As expectant parents wait anxiously for the arrival of their new family member, their minds are undoubtedly  filled with visions of endless smiles and giggles, first steps, first words, birthday parties, cutest baby outfits and many more heart-warming thoughts along that line. The possibility of your little one ever becoming seriously ill will probably be the last thing on your mind. However, as you may have heard, some parents do take some serious consideration over this matter. For these parents, they prefer to take no chances when it comes to their offspring’s well-being in the future. It is found that many parents have taken to banking in their newborn’s cord blood. Do they know something you don’t?


What is cord blood banking?


When a baby is born, the birth of the placenta will follow. The placenta is the organ that transfers oxygen and nutrients to the baby’s body while in the mother’s womb. All the while in human history, the umbilical cord and the placenta were discarded after birth either by the hospital staff or by the parents, through certain methods according to their respective cultures. During the 1970s however, researchers discovered that umbilical cord blood was capable of supplying the same kinds of blood-forming, life-saving (hematopoietic) stem cells which, all this time, could only be derived from bone marrow donors. Hence, umbilical cord blood began to be collected and stored with continuous studies being done worldwide on its functions, benefits and properties.


What are blood-forming stem cells?

These are early blood cells found primarily in the bone marrow that are capable of developing into the three types of mature blood cells present in our blood – red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Some serious illnesses (such as certain childhood cancers, blood diseases, and immune system disorders) require radiation and chemotherapy treatments to kill diseased cells in the body, which unfortunately also kill many “good” cells along with the bad, including healthy stem cells that live in the bone marrow.

Depending on the type of disease and treatment needed, some kids need a bone marrow transplant (from a donor whose marrow cells closely match their own, in other words, family members). Blood-forming stem cells from the donor are transplanted into the child who is ill, and those cells go on to manufacture new, healthy blood cells and enhance the child’s blood-producing and immune system capability.


How It Works

Collection of the cord blood takes place shortly after birth in both vaginal and Cesarean (C-section) deliveries but it is by no means a spontaneous decision, so arrangements have to be made prior to the birth. This is done by using a specific kit and parents must make necessary arrangements ahead of time with their chosen cord-blood bank. Check out the following websites for more information:

Collection procedure for vaginal deliveries

After a vaginal delivery, the umbilical cord is clamped on both sides and cut. In most cases, an experienced obstetrician or nurse collects the cord blood before the placenta is delivered. One side of the umbilical cord is unclamped, and a small tube is passed into the umbilical vein to collect the blood. After blood has been collected from the cord, needles are placed on the side of the surface of the placenta that was connected to the foetus to collect more blood and cells from the large blood vessels that fed    the foetus.

Collection procedure for C-Section Deliveries

During Cesarean births, cord-blood can be collected after the mother has been safely operated on. After the operation and the mother’s uterus has been sutured, the cord blood can be collected. However, less cord blood is usually collected when delivery is by C-section. The amount collected is critical because more blood means, more stem cells collected. If using the stem cells ever becomes necessary having more to implant increases the chances of engraftment (successful transplantation).

Cord blood storage and usage

After cord-blood collection has taken place, the blood is placed into bags or syringes and is usually taken by courier to the cord-blood bank. Once there, the sample is given an identifying number. Then the stem cells are separated from the rest of the blood and are  cryogenically stored (frozen in liquid nitrogen). The cord blood will remain in storage till needed, where it will
then be thawed and used in either autologous procedures (when someone receives his or her own umbilical cord blood in a transplant) or allogeneic procedures (when a person receives umbilical cord blood donated from someone else – a sibling, close relative, or anonymous donor).


Does stem cells last in storage?

By theory, stem cells last forever, hence their role and importance in terms of saving lives. However, since cord-blood research only began in the 1970s, the maximum time for storage and potential usage is still being studied before an official conclusion is made. On the upside, blood-forming stem cells that have been stored for more than a decade have been used successfully in transplants. Better safe than sorry!

The decision is solely yours as a parent-to-be. Cord-blood banking is not a routine procedure in hospital or anywhere else you might deliver your baby. It has to be pre-arranged with your chosen cord-blood bank and service provider, hence it’s best you be well read and well informed so that you may make the best decision for your baby’s future and possibly the future of other family members as well.

One of the reasons that parents consider banking their newborn’s cord blood is because they have a child or close relative with a medical history of diseases that can only be treated with bone marrow transplants. Some diseases that more commonly involve bone marrow transplants include certain kinds of leukemia or lymphoma, aplastic anemia, severe sickle cell anemia, and severe combined immunodeficiency.


The odds that the average baby without risk factors will ever use his or her own banked cord blood is considered low. However, no accurate estimates exist at this time, hence more and more parents feel that they are not willing to take a chance. If you are one of them, surf the web, learn more and make a call now for your family’s sake!






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