You may have heard that the stem cells in your baby’s umbilical-cord blood can save lives, but if you’re like most people, you have only a vague notion of how stem cells work — or which diseases they can treat. Right now, certain cancers, blood disorders, and immune disorders, among other conditions, are being successfully treated with cord-blood stem cells — and thanks to cord blood research, the list of conditions and diseases that may be treated by these stem cells is growing.
Why is it important to know about the cord blood research and what types of diseases it can treat?
Knowing what cord blood can and can’t do may influence your decision to store your baby’s cord blood with a private bank (for your family’s use) or donate it to a public bank. Here are the facts you should keep in mind as you consider private public cord blood banking:
Cord Blood Basics
Cord blood is the blood left over in your baby’s umbilical cord immediately after birth. (Your practitioner harvests the blood in a quick, easy, and painless procedure.) The reason this blood is so valuable is because it contains hematopoietic stem cells, which are cells that have the ability to develop into any type of specialized cell in the blood and immune system and replace or repair these types of damaged cells throughout the body. That makes cord blood ideal for transplantation — the stem cells mutate and regenerate to form healthy blood and immune cells — and makes it a standard treatment for certain diseases such as cancers, blood disorders, bone-marrow-failure syndromes, metabolic disorders, immune-system deficiencies, and other inherited disorders. Even though bone marrow and circulating blood are also used for transplantation when treating these diseases, cord blood is often a better choice because it doesn’t have to match a patient’s tissue type as closely as donated bone marrow or circulating blood does.