Cord Blood Treatment Saves Lives


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — After a baby is born and the umbilical cord is cut, ever wonder where that umbilical cord ends up? Most of the time, it becomes waste. But that cord has some valuable resources that can save a life. The blood that is found in it is called umbilical cord blood or cord blood for short. It contains all the normal elements of blood, such as red and white blood cells and it is also jam packed with stem cells, similar to the ones found in bone marrow. Here are some benefits of using cord blood in treating diseases, such as leukemia or sickle cell disease.

According to James E. Baumgartner, MD, a pediatric surgeon at Florida Hospital in Orlando, Florida, “Birth is pretty exciting, it’s pretty dramatic. A lot of things are happening.”

One of those things that people rarely hear about is the option to donate cord blood. Bone marrow and cord blood contain the same type of stem cells, but those from cord blood have more advantages. Since stem cells from cord blood are less mature than stem cells from an adult’s bone marrow, a recipient’s body is less likely to reject them.

Another benefit is that taking cord blood is less invasive than a bone marrow transplant. Once an umbilical cord is clamped, it is wiped with antiseptic and a needle is inserted into one of the veins to withdraw a few ounces of blood. The procedure takes just a few minutes and is painless.

“We all collect prospective data to look for risk for lung damage, kidney damage, liver damage, heart damage. We’re looking at the nervous system pretty carefully and we found nothing. So that we really believe that it’s safe,” Baumgartner told Ivanhoe.

About 70 percent of patients who need a stem cell transplant don’t have a matching donor in their own family, which leads to the main advantage of cord blood. Stem cells from cord blood don’t need to be exactly matched to the patient like bone marrow transplants from adult donors

One drawback to cord blood though is that the number of stem cells available is relatively small. Thus young children benefit more often than adults when it comes to cord blood transplants because they need less. Families can either save cord blood for possible use in the future for themselves or donate them to a bank. So for future mothers who want to donate, here’s what you need to do: talk to your doctor at least three months before your due date to find out if you are eligible to donate cord blood.

Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

REPORT #2401

BACKGROUND: A stem cell transplant is a treatment that is used to treat cancers that affect blood and immune system like leukemia, multiple myeloma, and some types of lymphoma. Stem cell transplants are used to treat these types of cancer since the stem cells that the body naturally produces most often die due to treatments like radiation and chemotherapy. Human beings need stem cells to survive, therefore, a stem cell transplant gives patients blood cells that they can’t produce anymore. Furthermore, donated cells can often find and kill the cancerous cells better than the patient’s own cells. Stem cells include:

  • Red blood cells (RBCs)
  • White Blood cells (WBCs)
  • Platelets

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CORD BLOOD: In the past, the only location where stem cells could be taken for a transplant was in the bone marrow. In recent years cord blood, the blood that is found in the umbilical cord, has been used for stem cell transplants. They possess the same quantity of stem cells as the bone marrow, and they come with more advantages. To start off, no surgery is needed like with bone marrow. Since the umbilical cord is natural in every birth, the mother can choose to donate her cord around three months before she is due. Once the cord is clamped, it is cleaned with antiseptic. Later, a needle is inserted into one of the veins in order to gather the necessary blood. Furthermore, since the cord blood stem cells are less mature than those stem cells from an adult’s bone marrow, the recipient’s body is less likely to reject the transplant. This is very important for people with ethnic backgrounds. With bone marrow’s stem cells, the match between the donor and the recipient has to be 8/8’; with cord blood cells, on the other hand, the match can be partial. For recipients that come from an ethnic background, a perfect match can be harder to find.


PROS & CONS: Other advantages that come with core blood cells are the association of lower incidence of GvHD (Graft vs. Host Disease), and the lower risk of viral infections. Nevertheless, the cord blood cells have a drawback: the amount of stem cells found in them is very small. Because of the low number, children benefit from this transplant procedure more than adults. Since children’s bodies are smaller, they need fewer cells for their body to start reproducing them naturally. On the other hand, adults naturally need more cells than the ones the cord blood produces because of their size.


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