After childbirth the placenta and the umbilical cord contain traces of blood. This is called the cord blood. This blood is collected right after birth. The cord blood contains the baby’s cellular blueprint in the form of stem cells and is used to treat certain disorders. The cord blood belongs to the baby.
Stem cells can be called the building blocks of organic cells. They are undifferentiated biological cells which have the capability to grow into a specialised cell. Stem cells can also divide via mitosis (a natural cell division process) to create more stem cells.
There are two types of stem cells:
Embryonic stem cells are derived from the early embryo, precisely from the blastocyst that forms a few days after fertilisation. Adult stem cells are found in the umbilical cord and placental blood during childbirth. These cells can regenerate indefinitely and form complete organs, therefore making them medically precious for the individual they belong to. Stem cells can also be obtained from the bone marrow.
Uses of Stem Cells
Stem cells are known to repair damaged cells and help.
Below mentioned are a few ways in which stem cells are used:
Stem cells can be obtained in two ways:
The process to get the umbilical cord’s stem cells is not invasive and is very simple & fast. Cord blood cells are also more compatible with foreign cells and provide a perfect match for the donor. The chances of the cells being rejected by the recipient or are greatly reduced, as also is the likelihood of GvHD or Graft versus Host Disease. A cord blood cell is much more adaptable than others. When stored correctly, cord blood can be kept for a long period of time.
Cord blood banking
Cord blood banking is a way to store the cord blood for possible future needs. The blood is stored in cryogenic facilities for an indefinite amount of time, always ready to be dispatched when needed.
The two types of cord blood banks:
The cord blood is collected after birth as well as the process is painless. After collecting them, the cells remain active for a few days. During this period , they are taken to a cord blood storage bank where they are frozen to be stored . A specialised kit is used for cord blood collection.
Saving newborn cord blood
Stem cell preservation is an important first step to ensuring that a baby will have extra treatment options if he or she needs to combat certain diseases as an adult.
Diseases treated with cord blood
The stem cells of cord blood can be used to treat many diseases, for instance hematopoietic stem cells, which are extracted from the bone marrow or the newborn baby umbilical cord, can create new blood cells through the process of haematopoiesis. These cells produce red and white blood cells as well as platelets. HSCT or Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation is a procedure that is used to treat many diseases, like some types of leukemia, Lymphoma, Aplastic anaemia and more.
Stem cells can help with efforts made to combat cerebral palsy, some heart diseases, Parkinson’s disease, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and various injuries in the spinal cord.