Did you know that July is National Cord Blood Awareness Month? If you are a parent-to-be, there’s a lot you need to know about the benefits of cord blood banking. We checked in with Dr. Clifford Librach, founder and director of CReATe Cord Blood Bank and the CReATe Fertility Centre to give us the 411 on cord blood banking.
So what exactly is cord blood? Cord blood is the blood remaining in the placenta and umbilical cord, which is typically discarded after a baby is delivered.
Why should people consider banking cord blood? Cord blood is a rich source of stem cells that are the building blocks of our blood and immune systems. With their regenerative capabilities, these stem cells could potentially replace critical cells in tissues all over the body that have been destroyed or damaged by disease. If a stem cell transplant is required, the banked cord blood is readily available and is a perfect match for the donor and possibly other close family members
I have heard about stem cells that are found in the umbilical cord tissue – should I be banking these too?
You should consider it. The umbilical cord tissue is very rich in a different and very important type of stem cell called mesenchymal stem cells (Peristem). Think of Peristem stem cells as being the building blocks of all the structural tissues (bone, cartilage, muscle, fibre and fat) of your body. Not only could these Peristem™ stem cells be used to regenerate and repair damaged tissues, but they are also currently being investigated for use in the management of heart disease, birth defects, treatment of burns, MS, juvenile Diabetes and Crohn’s disease. CReATe is actually the only bank in Canada licensed to harvest and store Peristem™ cells alongside cord blood.
Is the cord blood banking process painful? After the baby has been safely delivered and the umbilical cord has been clamped and cut, the remaining blood in the umbilical cord and placenta is drawn into a sterile collection bag. The collection process is safe and quick for both mother and baby. Your labour and delivery are not affected in any way and only the blood that will be thrown away is collected. The cord blood is then transferred to the cord blood bank facility where it is analyzed, processed, and stored cryogenically.
What is the difference between a family or private bank and a public bank?
Family or private cord blood banks provide parents with the opportunity to bank their child’s cord blood for future use without losing custodial rights to it. In the family banking model, parents pay to process and store their child’s precious stem cells as a form of biological insurance. As Dr. Librach tell us, “banking cord blood is a way of investing in your child’s health – it makes as much sense as saving for their education or other life cycle events.”
Donating to a public bank on the other hand does not necessarily guarantee that your cord blood will be preserved, and you lose all custodial rights to your cord blood. In many cases, donated stem cells are not banked at all as public banks have much narrower criteria for banking cord blood. However, if you do donate to a public bank and your cells are preserved, you could be helping save the life of someone else anywhere in the world! So if you’re not planning on investing in a family bank to hold onto your own child’s cord blood then why not donate it?
Whether you choose to bank publicly or with a family bank, having more options available to Canadians is a wonderful thing. With new broader access to cord blood for potential use in stem cell therapies and regenerative medicine, the hope is that more awareness will develop, which will ultimately lead to more research and hopefully, more successful medical breakthroughs in these areas.
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