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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Umbilical Cord Stem Cells

Having a baby is one of the most joyous times in your life and you can’t wait to hold your new child and enjoy the entire first in its life. You count the fingers and the toes and relish in the healthy new birth. No one ever thinks – “what do I do if my child gets seriously ill” while holding your baby for the first time.

Some educated parents actually do plan for the future health of their baby by finding reasons to bank their newborn’s cord blood. Blood from the umbilical cord comes from the placenta after a child is born. That blood contains stem cells and can be used in the treatment of various genetic disorders and hematopoietic in children.

In the past, the mother’s placenta and the baby’s umbilical cord were discarded after childbirth. It wasn’t until the 1970s that research discovered that the components of umbilical cord blood supplied the same blood-forming stem cells found in bone marrow. Doctors have found many reasons to bank umbilical cord blood which has the capability to develop into the three types of mature blood cells like platelets, red and white blood cells.

Cord blood stem cells can be used in the treatment of many illnesses in children such as certain cancers, sickle cell anemia, immune system disorders, Aplastic anemia and blood disease. These diseases are treated with chemo and radiation which also kills off good cells in the body as well as healthy stem cells. If a child needs a bone marrow transplant from these cord blood stem cells, those new cells work to manufacture healthy new blood cells to enhance the efficiency of the immune system.

The cord blood is collected by syringe out of the placenta and umbilical cord after childbirth, placed in bags or in the syringe and taken to the bank. Each collection then gets an identifying number, separated with blood cells of its type and stored in frozen liquid nitrogen. There is no time limit as to how long an umbilical cord blood stem cell can last.

It is most often rare that a baby will need to use its own banked cord blood unless there is a history of medical problems in the family. These stem cells can only be used on children and young adults since the cells may not be sufficient to help an adult – they are not adequate for an adult transplant.

A transplant of the cord blood stem cells can be used for a relative since they do not need to be a perfect match. In fact, most bone marrow transplants of the blood-forming stem cells have been used on relatives of the donating child. Health risk to the mother and her baby at the time of the collection is very low yet the benefits of the umbilical cord stem cells are high, which is something to think about as you love and cuddle your new little one.

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