Did you know that after a baby is born, the blood left in the umbilical cord and placenta is rich with potentially lifesaving cell?
This is called cord blood. Cord blood is full of stem cells and these stem cells are blood-forming cells that can help cure over eighty types of diseases and disorders like aplastic anemia, leukemia, lymphoma and other inherited immune disorders. When transplanted, healthy stem cells replace damaged cells in a patient’s bone marrow and immune system.
Why are these stem cells so unique and what do they really need to match?
Like organ transplantation, stem cell transplantation involves finding the best match. Only 25% are lucky enough to find a match within their own family – the other 75% must look outside their families for an unrelated donor. At any given time, about one thousand patients are in need of an unrelated blood stem cell transplant and unfortunately about half of those people don’t find one. Finding the right stem cell match is challenging but scientists know there’s a better chance of a match with someone who shares the same racial or ethnic heritage. So, cord blood donations from babies of diverse backgrounds will help meet the needs of the world’s ethnically diverse population.
So how is Cord Blood collected?
The collection begins after the safe arrival of a healthy baby and only takes 3-5 minutes. The process is safe and painless and poses minimal risk to the mother and baby. Once cut, the umbilical cord is cleaned and the cord blood is collected by a healthcare professional in one of the designated hospitals. A sterile needle is inserted into the umbilical cord and the blood is drawn.
How much will it cost me to donate?
Rest assured, your donation is your gift to someone in need and there is no cost for you to donate.
How are these cells used?
Are they safe?
First, the collected cells are sent to the Blood Services processing facilities and many tests are performed to ensure the safety and quality of each donation. Once testing is complete, information about the samples is entered into a national data base. The cells are then cryopreserved at -196° C. There are samples of cord blood stem cells that have been stored for over 16 years without any detected deterioration in quality.
So what happens to the samples that may not meet certain requirements to be banked in the national public cord blood bank?
In a continuous effort to help drive lifesaving medical discoveries, donations that do not meet the requirements to be banked, with the mother’s consent, may be donated to our biomedical research program.
How do stem cells get transplanted?
Well, it’s simple. Patients are given the stem cells through transfusion – pretty much the same way you would receive blood. The science behind all of this is pretty fascinating! Once transplanted, stem cells get right to work and begin to divide and produce new blood cells. This stimulates the regeneration of unhealthy bone marrow. The cells can then transform into other types of cells – to help repair tissues, organs, and blood vessels.
How does Blood Services fit into all of this?
They manage the cord blood bank. They recruit healthy donors and search for matches for all patients in need. And they coordinate the delivery of these potentially lifesaving stem cells. No simple task. The national public cord blood bank is also part of an international network of over 69 registries and 47 cord blood banks throughout the world.