Cord blood banking is changing the world of medicine. These stem cells offer safer treatment alternatives, faster stem cell matches, and have the ability to boost the immune system in a matter of days after the end of chemo treatment. Researchers continue to make progress almost on a yearly basis, giving us hope that cord blood stem cells are the answer to many common types of cancers and diseases. Truly, the umbilical cord stem cells advantages are almost limitless.
Changing the World of Medicine
Cord blood stem cells are widely used all over the world to treat a wide range of illnesses, cancers, and diseases. While in many cases stem cell transfusions are not the first choice as an effective treatment, many doctors are quickly learning that these stem cells offer more advantages than bone marrow transplants.
While bone marrow features a higher stem cell content, it can take several weeks or months to find a perfect donor match. With cord blood stem cells there only needs to be a partial match. This means faster treatment. The average time it takes to locate a match for a stem cell transplant is usually a matter of days. In some cases, a match is found in twenty-four to forty-eight hours.
Cord Blood Collection
Cord blood collection is a painless process. The blood is obtained right after the mother delivers the infant, but before she delivers the placenta. The attending physician cuts the umbilical cord and uses a syringe or bag to obtain the blood. The entire procedure is completed in a matter of minutes.
Bone marrow donation is a very painful process. Additionally, bone marrow does not remain viable for long. This means the donation must be relatively fresh, making it even more difficult to find a bone marrow donor match.
Viable Stem Cells for the Whole Family
Cord blood stem cells can only be used on the donor is a common misconception. In fact, these stem cells are a great match for full siblings and a partial match for both parents. In some cases, doctors can use cord blood stem cells to treat extended family members, such as grandparents. This means if you decided not to bank your first child’s cord blood, the cord blood of their siblings can still be used for life-saving treatments.
Stem Cells with No Expiration Date
Unlike bone marrow, cord blood does not expire. Cord blood is processed using a technique called cryopreservation. After testing, the cells are slowly brought down to freezing temperatures. This type of freezing method allows the frozen cells to remain viable and potent when thawed. One scientist thawed out a cord blood stem cell sample that was over twenty-three years old. When tested, he found that the sample still contained viable cells. While there is no determined expiration date, many scientists theorize that these stem cells can remain viable for decades.
Essentially, your child’s cord blood can be used for future treatment, even once they have reached adulthood.
How Safe is Donated Cord Blood?
Once cord blood is collected from the umbilical cord, before the blood is processed it goes through extensive testing. The mother’s blood is also tested during this time to rule out infectious diseases. This type of routine testing is done for every sample of donated cord blood and commonly done in private cord blood banks as well. The use of donated cord blood is totally safe for the recipient.
To learn more about cord blood banking benefits, click here to read our main guide.
A Perfect Match is Not Necessary
As we briefly touched on earlier, with bone marrow a perfect match is required for a transplant. Cord blood stem cells only require a partial match. This is a huge advantage to patients in need of a transplant. If the patient is using donated stem cells, a cord blood bank can access a partial match fairly quickly.
You can learn more about the different types of stem cells by clicking here.
A Lower Risk of Guest Versus Host Disease
Guest versus host disease can be a life-threatening complication, and it occurs when the body’s immune system rejects the donated marrow, mistaking it for a harmful foreign body. While GVHD can still occur in patients who receive a cord blood stem cell transplant, it’s not nearly as common as it is with bone marrow transplants. In most cases, if this complication occurs with a stem cell transplant from cord blood, the reaction is very mild.
Faster Recovery Time After Radiation or Chemotherapy
Both chemotherapy and radiation are used as forms of effective treatment in the fight against many types of cancers. While these treatments are very successful when it comes to killing off diseased cells in the body, they often kill off the healthy cells as well. This leaves the patient weak for several months after treatment. Cord blood stem cell transfusions can be used after chemo or radiation as a way to boost the immune system, as the cells encourage new healthy cell growth. On average, patients have reported a significant improvement in as little as the first week after treatment.
Cord Blood Stem Cell Transplants Can Reduce the Risk of Viral Infections
CMV and Epstein Barr viruses are both types of infections that can be potentially lethal if transmitted during a transplant. Cord blood is eighty percent less likely to transmit both types of viruses.
As you can see, there are many advantages to using cord blood stem cells instead of bone marrow. Finding a match is often a faster process and can lead to more effective treatment. However, one major downside to umbilical cord blood is the amount of blood needed to treat adults. On average, one to two liters of cord blood stem cells are needed for successful treatment, but the average umbilical cord only provides around eighty milliliters of blood. Because of this, most recipients of cord blood transplants are often children. Currently, ongoing research is still needed to determine how stem cell treatment can be made more effective in adults.